Reviewed by Donald Madgwick for The Croydon Advertiser
Beautiful moments on another planet
In the theatre, the longer the evening, the greater are the talents needed to sustain it
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible makes for a longish evening. So what shall we say about the production by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon, of what is arguably the best play of America’s greatest living playwright?
Perhaps I cannot do better than quote Rossini on Wagner; beautiful moments, but bad quarters of an hour.
It seems to me, to being with, that a fundamental misconception underlay Paul M Ford’s production. Whether the programme was perpetrating a heavy joke or not I do not know, but it informed us that the sphere of action was not New England in the 17th Century but a “settlement of an off-world Colony” with a planetary environment similar to Earth’s. Well, well, you could have fooled me.
The set was studded with platforms and wedge shaped blocks bearing geometrical patterns, which may or may not have had extra-planetary significance.
The ladies were mostly dressed like Victorian domestics. An electric fan cooled the Courthouse, and naked bulbs were visible. And Deputy Governer Danforth was played by a woman – Rebecca Ford in her most harpyish vein – who was variously addressed as Danforth, Miss Danforth, Excellency, Judge, Sir and Ma’am.
Otherwise we were, or may have been, in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1690’s, with the Witches’ Award for Overacting going comfortably to Tim Young for his blubbering, blustering portrayal of the Rev. Samuel Parris.
Without the off-world colonial gimmicks, and with a more consistent dramatic direction, this could have been a notable evening in the theatre. But the passion was felt only intermittently, most notably from Paul M Ford himself as a fierce Ezekiel Cheever, and in some impressive flights of rhetoric by Mark Outhwaite as the admirable John Proctor, who, however, while lying shackled in his condemned cell, managed to keep his linen remarkably spotless.
Paul M Ford
Robert Del Toro
Technical Crew Details:
Paul M Ford