The theatre itself was spectacular and beautiful, currently set with a wonderful stage in the round. Plus to think of the royalty, the leaders, the stars who had made history within its walls was a real pleasure. I was reminded, however, how different people were in the 1800s when The Old Vic first opened; the space between rows of seats was tiny and I felt bad for my 6'4'' boyfriend who cringed in pain as we sat through the show.
The show itself was impassioned and powerful. The Crucible is Arthur Miller's daunting tale of the Salem Witch Trials from the 17th Century. Young teenager Abigail Williams (played by Samantha Colley) leads a group of hysterical girls in accusing the Salem townspeople of witchcraft. It leaves John Proctor (played by Richard Armitage) to convince the court that his wife and other honorable women of the town are indeed Christian-fearing. There was never a dull moment, never a time when it felt as though the cast were not fully invested in their characters. And it drew me in, it held my attention and my emotion so I became invested in the story as well.
The cast sustained the drama with what The Telegraph called 'electrifying intensity' for the show's three and a half hours. The Independent as well well hailed it as 'unmissable' and said 'there isn't a weak link.' Although most critics have given it five stars, I have to admit that there were times when the 'electrifying intensity' was just too much.
I don't doubt for a moment the skill of each of the actors nor the talent of South African director Yaël Farber, but there is a lot to be said for adding a little bit of lightness to an incredibly challenging, thought-provoking, and emotionally-wrenching piece. After the first 45 minutes or so, I was ready for intermission. I wasn't even on stage and I was already exhausted from the anger and fear portrayed. The audience craved the very few moments they had liberty to smile or laugh. And during those moments when the audience had a break, they could gain some perspective through comparison which makes the story all that much more powerful.
It is a difficult script to find those moments, but there is more depth to a character when you see them fighting against all odds to smile.
I congratulate the cast, crew, and the director for sustaining the intensity as they did. I may have longed for a break, but I was still heavily invested in what was happening on stage and eager to see what would happen next. That is a huge accomplishment for such a long, draining show. I haven't even mentioned the harsh lighting, simplicity of staging, and dauntingly powerful music which added tremendously the overall mood. Farber may have missed the opportunity to have his character's fight for happiness against all odds, but certainly her directorial vision is clear: every element worked seamlessly with the others to present a story of passion, drama, and fear.
The Old Vic's history is one great talent and theatrical success. That history is really a continuing heritage on The Old Vic stage and I'm honored that I was able to be part of it.