The Crucible, The Old Vic – Performance review

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating
****
A heartening piece of pure drama.

There's great physicalistation from the ensemble (Credit: Johan Persson)

There’s great physicalistation from the ensemble (Credit: Johan Persson)

Last night’s thunderstorm may have been forecast, but I have a feeling it may have been the doings in The Old Vic which spurred the storm to build to such intensity …

The design really sets the tone for this production: the space is awash with a dreary sepia tone and a constant smokiness in the air – there is no bright and lightness in the place. The Crucible is part of The Old Vic’s second in-the-round season – it fit the world of the play very well, and drew the audience further into the murkiness.

Directed by Yaël Farber, she hits us hard from the very beginning, and doesn’t let up throughout the three-hour production. With a story of Salem witch trials, false accusations, lies, revenge, power, God and the devil – how could it not be hard-hitting?

Richard Armitage’s portrayal of John Proctor is authoritative yet touching: he’s just as compelling to watch in quieter moments as when bellowing out in anger. Armitage has great chemistry with both of his leading ladies: Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Anna Madeley, and the formidable Abigail Williams, played by Samantha Colley. Both women have great presence: Madeley has a gripping emotional intensity, while Colley forcefully commands the attention of the audience.

Armitage's turn as John Proctor is commanding to watch (Credit: Johan Persson)

Armitage’s turn as John Proctor is commanding to watch (Credit: Johan Persson)

The movement in the play is a real highlight. Marama Corlett (playing Betty Parris) kept me engrossed as she contorted herself during a fight with an internal spirit. The movement work from the other young girls in the ensemble was also engaging and bewitching.

What I found most impressive about the production was that I found myself involuntarily shaking my head in disbelief on several occasions; I was utterly frustrated with Judge Hathhorne and his cronies – showing that the power of Arthur Miller’s storytelling is yet to dampened by time. The play may have left me feeling slightly depressed at the unfairness of life, but the most important outcome of this production is that it left me feeling something.

For people looking to go and see some impressive theatre this summer, this production has a lot to offer, and is highly recommended.

The Crucible runs at The Old Vic until 13 September 2014. Visit www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2014/the-crucible to buy tickets and for more information.

Theatre Centre – Staging in schools: CPD masterclass – workshop review

 (Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

Star rating
***

An interesting session considering engagement with space. 

I attended a masterclass at Greenwich Theatre run by Theatre Centre, who are currently touring Roy Williams’ Advice For The Young At Heart.

The session, looking at staging performances in schools, was led by the company’s artistic director Natalie Wilson. For this workshop, in particular, it was really interesting to have Wilson leading. As the artistic director she has to think constantly about the bigger picture – which is exactly what the session was trying to broach: how does a play work on all levels? You may have the words of a fantastic playwright to work with, but if the way in which you’re staging a performance  doesn’t reach out and connect with your audience, it can become a lost cause.

This masterclass isn’t directly linked to the content of Advice For The Young At Heart, which attendees get to watch post workshop. I think the idea behind this is to allow participants see the work of the last two hours put into practice by the company – however, that evening’s show took place in a professional theatre, not the school halls and canteens in which teachers find themselves putting on performances, and which often play host to Theatre Centre productions.

The content covered was quite basic: we looked at forms of staging –  in-the-round, traverse and end on. Several participants in my group were trying to push the boundaries of our given ‘end on’ setting to stage our piece with a more creative use of space. But it was good to bring it to a simple form: considering how your use of space can engage students is important.

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

The exercises that formed the masterclass worked well in demonstrating the diversity in performance created when using the stage space differently. However, I personally think a slightly more lengthy, slightly less practical session from Wilson would have benefited participants more. She had produced and presented a graph model explaining the influences between narrative, performer, audience and staging, and how they affect one another. It was really interesting,  and well explained by Wilson, but I would have found it more effective perhaps to have a case study of one of Theatre Centre’s own shows during the session to demonstrate how they consider alternative spaces and audiences when they tour.

To find out more about Theatre Centre’s CPD sessions and touring performances, visit www.theatre-centre.co.uk.

New theatre to be built in heart of West End

Westminster City Council has approved plans for a new theatre to be built in central London. The yet- to-be-named venue will be the first new theatre to join the West End in 30 years.

The project is being undertaken by Nimax Theatres, owners of the Apollo, Duchess, Garrick, Lyric and Vaudeville Theatres. Nimax have also recently acquired Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Chief executive of Nimax, Nica Burns, told the Finical Times about her excitement for the project: ‘I’m delighted that this beautiful theatre has gone on to the next stage of its development. It will add greatly to the potential of London theatre making. I didn’t want it to compete with other theatres. I wanted it to offer a different space for London in a fabulous location for actors and directors.’

The new state-of-the-art theatre venue will be constructed on top of Tottenham Court Road Station, which is currently undergoing redevelopment. Work on the theatre is expected to begin in 2017.

Plans for the interior of the building have also been revealed. The theatre’s design will allow for a variation of performance spaces to be created. There will be facilities for productions to perform in the round and in a horseshoe configuration. The theatre is expected to accommodate up to 500 visitors.