“A parable that certainly stands the test of time, its shadows crossing the centuries and still looming large today”
If you (falsely) confess to the charges levelled at you – your life is spared. If you (truthfully) deny them, even though the evidence is based on little more than mass hysteria, you will be hanged. A warped message, but one that resonates today, albeit in an exaggerated way. Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is based on the Salem witch trials of the 1690s but he openly presented it as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the US government persecuted people accused of being communists. Lyndsey Turner’s atmospheric revival stays faithful to Miller’s seventy-year-old classic, while allowing the audience to draw their own parallels with our contemporary world of cancel culture, social media groupthink and perceptions of reality. It sounds heady stuff, but the beauty of Turner’s interpretation is that these worries are triggered by straightforward, authentic and, at times, chilling drama.
There is no safety curtain in this production. Instead, a wall of rain pre-sets the action that unfolds on Es Devlin’s simple and sepulchral set. Tim Lutkin’s lighting casts whispers of horror while Tingying Dong’s soundscape illuminates the menace with the aural equivalent of dying candles. The young girls, innocent in appearance, writhe in unison, led by ringleader Abigail (a compelling Milly Alcock). It matters not whether their possession by the devil is real or not. The fatal effects on their elders – the supposedly authoritative members of society – are what propels the narrative. The outcome is guided by superstitions, and by unenlightened minds that eschew truth and reason in favour of their self-interested goals. The familiarity is sometimes uncomfortable as the focus regularly shifts from the accused to the accusers. The term ‘witch-hunt’ has become such a cliché, but Turner’s rich interpretation refreshes it without uprooting it from its origins.
The heart of the story, and it’s strongest moments of pathos, stem from joint protagonists John Proctor and his wife, Elizabeth. Despite John’s dubious backstory and the marital discord, it is the redemptive qualities of their relationship that restores our faith and offers a fragile hope. Brian Gleeson has the charisma to marry Proctor’s rebellious defiance with a gentle dignity, ultimately admitting guilt to protect his wife and children. Caitlin Fitzgerald’s Elizabeth has a matching dignity, made stronger by the knocks it needs to withstand. Their scene together towards the climax of the show is a quiet moment of heartbreak that stands out above the wolflike baying.
Milly Alcock’s manipulative Abigail swings from endearing to malicious in a captivating performance, matched by Nia Towle’s Mary Warren, a fellow accuser who, too late, shows flashes of conscience. The voices of reason are mercifully heard above the clamour. Such as Tilly Tremayne’s Rebecca Nurse and Karl Johnson’s tragicomic portrayal of Giles Corey who exposes alternative motives for the trials. Accusations fly as irrationality poses as righteousness. Fisayo Akinade’s Reverend John Hale both embodies and exposes this in a remarkable performance that pins down disillusionment in the face of corruption and abuse.
At just under three hours the pace never seems slow. Miller’s language – its rhythms and patterns – can take the credit, but it has to share it with a tremendous company that honours the writer’s intentions. A parable that certainly stands the test of time, its shadows crossing the centuries and still looming large today. This revival is as dark as those shadows but is a shining example of how theatre can light up our lives.
Lisa Palfry (Big Mama), Hayley Squires (Mae) and Brian Gleeson (Gooper) with Richard Hansel (Doctor) and Michael J Shannon (Reverend) join the previously announced Sienna Miller (Maggie), Jack O’Connell (Brick) and Colm Meaney (Big Daddy) for the Young Vic production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directed by Benedict Andrews. The younger members of the Company will be announced at a later date.
The twelve-week run in the West End at the Apollo Theatre begins previews on 13 July 2017 with press night on 24 July. The last performance is 7 October 2017. Set designs are by Magda Willi with costume designs by Alice Babidge, lighting by Jon Clark and sound design by Gareth Fry. Music is by award-wining composer and musician Jed Kurzel.
The truth hurts. On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gather at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell. Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage. With the future of the family at stake, which version of the truth is real – and which will win out?
Lisa Palfrey’s theatre credits include Junkyard for Headlong, Much Ado About Nothing for Theatre Clwyd, The Seagull for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, The Kitchen Sink for the Bush Theatre, Red Bud, Ingredient X and Under The Blue Sky all for the Royal Court Theatre, Festen and The Iceman Cometh both for the Almeida Theatre and Cardiff East and Under Milk Wood both for the National Theatre. Her film credits include Pride, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, House of America, Under Milk Wood and Guest House Paradiso. Her television credits include Hinterland, The Line of Duty, Green Hollow, Casualty, and Family Tree.
Hayley Squires’ theatre credits include The Pitchfork Disney at Shoreditch Town Hall and As Good a Time as Any at The Print Room. For the role of Katie in Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning I, Daniel Blake she won the British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer, the Evening Standard British Film award for Best Supporting Actress and also received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her other credits include Giantland, Away, Polar Bear, A Royal Night Out and Blood Cells. Her television credits include The Miniaturist, Collateral, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, The Commuter, Murder, Southcliffe, Complicit and Call The Midwife.
Brian Gleeson was most recently seen on stage in The Weir at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. His other theatre credits include The Walworth Farce at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin and the Donmar Warehouse production of The Night Alive, which also ran at the Atlantic Theatre in New York. His film credits include Assassin’s Creed, The Flag, Tiger Raid, History’s Future, Standby, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Stay, Snow White and The Huntsman. His television work includes the lead role of Jimmy Mahon in the RTÉ series Rebellion, Quirke and Stonemouth. His film work due for release this year includes Steven Soderbergh’s feature film Logan Lucky, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Richard Hansell’s more recent theatre credits include Lazarus at the King’s Cross Theatre, the Young Vic’s production of A View From the Bridge which transferred to the West End and then to Broadway and Macbeth at the Trafalgar Studios. His other theatre credits include Tonight at 8.30 for Chichester Festival Theatre, The Madness of King George III at the Apollo Theatre, The Bridge Project at the Old Vic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Troilus and Cressida for Shakespeare’s Globe, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, School for Scandal and Hamlet all for English Touring Theatre and A Patriot For Me and Two Gentlemen of Verona for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His television credits include And Then There Were None, Downton Abbey, Spooks, The Royal, Miracle Landing on The Hudson and E=MC2, and on film his credits include Shine, The Wolfman and Hamlet.
Michael J Shannon’s theatre credits include The Dining Room and The Glass Menagerie, both at Greenwich Theatre, Artichoke for the Tricycle Theatre, Totally Foxed at the Theatre Royal Bath, The Price at the Leicester Haymarket, The End of the World at Nuffield, Southampton, A Thousand Clowns at the Palace, Watford and A Delicate Balance at the Nottingham Playhouse. His television credits include We’ll Meet Again, Boston Legal and Brothers & Sisters.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
13 July – 7 October 2017
31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm