The Crucible at the National Theatre Review – Amy van Rensburg

The much anticipated production from the National Theatre opened earlier this year in September. Many people were eager to buy tickets to what they assumed would be a masterful performance of Arthur Miller’s tragic play due to the ingenious Lyndsey Turner being set to direct the performance. However, while some fans enjoyed Turner’s take on the Crucible, many were left disappointed after seeing the unusual character interpretations and questionable, constantly changing accents which some actors had for their characters. One of the most notable differences was Brendan Cowell’s of John Proctor, while it wasn’t entirely awful, it did cause certain moments during the production to lack the much needed drama and effect, for example Brendan’s delivery of the famous line ‘because it is my name’ wasn’t a loud cry of agony, emphasizing Proctor’s demise and loss, but instead was delivered as a mere whisper with Brendan’s voice breaking. This caused the audience to be mostly unmoved and for the most renowned line in the entire play to be wasted. 


When speaking to Miss van Barthold (an experienced director and teacher of drama)  she agreed with the viewpoint that Brendan Cowell’s interpretation of John Proctor was much different to how he was described in the play and how Proctor had been played by other actors in previous productions. However, while she too was disappointed with Brendan Cowell’s performance, she informed me that she was particularly impressed by the actress of Mary Warren (Rachelle Diedricks), who is still a relatively unknown actress but was nevertheless able to show Mary’s distress and corruption from hysteria with clarity which, according to Miss van Barthold, “completely encompassed the nature and themes of the play.” 


There were also many other phenomenal performances from actors which gripped me as an audience member, such as Nick Fletcher as Reverend Parris, Karl Johnson as Giles Correy and Eileen Walsh as Elizabeth Proctor.


However, despite the incredible performances from those actors, what particularly stood out to me was the astonishing set, sound and lighting design, from Es Devlin, Paul Arditti, Tim Lutkin, Caroline Shaw, Osnat Schmool, Alice Grant, Ellie Wintour and Tingying Dong. At the beginning and end of each act there was a huge water feature which bordered the entire stage, adding tension and drama to the production at the perfect moments, foreshadowing the imminent doom of the play. There was also a live choir at the very back of the stage, hidden in the shadows, singing psalms when needed which stunned the audience time and time again with its haunting beauty and effect. 


Despite the lacking performances from some actors, Turner’s version of the play was still spectacular, allowing Arthur Miller’s stunning play to be brought back to life once more. 

Richmond and Twickenham Times | Theatre