Review: ‘The best production of The Crucible I have seen on the local stage’

OVO Theatre presents The Crucible at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans [Picture: OVO Theatre]

OVO Theatre presents The Crucible at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans [Picture: OVO Theatre] - Credit: OVO Theatre

Madeleine Burton reviews The Crucible at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

For many theatregoers, The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s masterpiece.

Set in Salem at the time of the witch trials in 1692, it has long been seen as Miller’s parable on McCarthyism, the attempt to stamp out communism in 1950s America.

Whichever interpretation you put on it, performances of The Crucible needs to have that something extra to make them really stand out – and the current production by St Albans-based drama company OVO has it in spades.

With Shakespeare and other great classical authors, the performance is the thing.

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Whether you take The Crucible at face value or relate it to McCarthyism, it can lack impact in the wrong hands.

But OVO are undoubtedly the right hands and this is the best production of The Crucible I have seen on the local stage.

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Director Janet Podd has a fine pedigree with OVO but this lifts her directing skills to a new level.

Set in the round in the Maltings Arts Theatre, it brings the audience into the play and captures the hysteria around the witch trials which led to so many losing their lives.

The ethereal opening tableau is a brilliant move and from thereon, the play moves seamlessly to its sad and sorry ending.

In the key role of farmer John Proctor is Adam Nichols, the founder of OVO, who keeps giving and giving to the company.

His total immersion in the role is matched by Faith Turner as his wife Elizabeth.

In fact both looked exhausted at the end of last Thursday’s performance – they had clearly given all they had.

Jane Withers as Abigail Turner, the girl whose accusations about witchcraft lead to the trials, is equally good, both in her early appearance in the part and particularly as she and her fellow conspirators are brought to the court later in the play.

As Mary Warren, a fine study of the impact of hysteria and guilt by Steph Jones, testifies that the girls were lying about witchcraft, Abigail leads them into a macabre and hysterical ‘vision’ which effectively signs the death warrant of John Proctor and others due to hang that morning.

It is almost unfair to single anyone out because this is a production in which the entire cast excels, however large or small their role, but Andy Margerison, Howard Salinger and David Widdowson – all manifestly good actors – were exceptional.

• Demand for The Crucible is such that an extra performance has been added on Wednesday, November 15 in addition to those from this Thursday to Saturday, November 16 to 18.

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