- The Crucible, our review (english translation)
Writing this review in French was very emotional. We have tried to improve the Google translation and keep the 'spirit' of the original text. Nevertheless, some phrasings have been a little bit modified because too difficult to be faithfully transposed in their structures.
Please, be indulgent with our spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and wrong turns of phrase.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, London. Geek Lady and Translator Girl have an appointment at 5.30 p.m. with four French RAddicts. We gave ourselves as rallying point, the Old Vic Theatre. We see each other for the first time and it's a pleasure to meet RA friends. We are in contact with them since 2 years via the social networks. Some poses in front of the poster of Richard / John Proctor and we’re going to nibble a snack in a nice ‘Pret A Manger’ close to the theatre.
The long-awaited hour is coming. We are all seated on the second row in front of the stage.
Four of us are on the left, two on the right. Everything is beautiful. The scenery in brown/gray tones, the hangings adorning the balconies, set the mood and plunge us into the austere atmosphere of the story. We watch the room fills gradually, hearts throb, excitement increases...
A light smoke spreads over the stage, the lights dim...
The artists come on stage. In a beautiful ballet, they remove the chairs from the stage... Suddenly, our heart starts to beat faster! HE is there, gorgeous, sitting on a chair. Already, his posture gives us a glimpse of the sufferings John Proctor will endure and when he hoists his chair on his bent back, the weight of the burden becomes obvious.
The actors, always moving as if they were in a ballet, install the scenery. Begins, then, a magnificent spectacle brought by extraordinary actors. They embody with their talents, their physicals, their postures, their facial expressions, the characters who will trigger and those who will endure the destructive hysteria which strikes Salem. Everything about the staging is perfect and contributes to the oppressive and dramatic atmosphere of the story: the costumes, the scenery, the lights effects, the music, which discreet goes crescendo and rumbles as approaches the tragic moments, the smoke that plunges the set into a sort of haze, the ashes which fall at times (the so-called witches were burned alive)... The actors, very close to the audience, never get out of their roles. Only the deputy governor calls us to witness in a crucial scene.
A few minutes after the beginning of the act one, Richard comes on stage. He is extremely beautiful. What a presence ! What a magnetism ! What a charisma ! His deep voice, his great size, his body wrapped in a large coat, a range of emotions in his blue eyes, his postures, his movements, everything is right. It’s difficult not to take our eyes off Richard. However, we are enthralling by the story and the acting of the other artists, notably Adrian Schiller (Reverend John Hale) that we find exceptional. The confrontation between Proctor and Abigail (beautiful Samantha Colley) is bursting with a sensual intensity. It is evident that something has happened between them and that an infatuation still overcomes John Proctor, although he doesn’t admit it...
At the beginning of act two, we meet Elizabeth Proctor (Anna Madeley). At nightfall, she waits for her husband while preparing a meal and a basin of hot water for him. Through her attitudes, we can perceive the loneliness, the weariness, the anxiety, felt by this betrayed woman... As she retires upstairs, John returns at last. He tastes the dishes that heat on the stove (a good smell permeates the room proving that something really simmers), added salt and headed for the wash tub. He removes his shirt and begins his ablutions. This simple ritual gesture is so emotionally charged ! What a weariness in this man, too ! What is this burden that bends his long neck over the basin ? Culpability ? Remorse ? Self-disgust ? Loneliness ? Does he want to wash away his sins ? Elizabeth joins him and then begins an emotionally strong discussion. Both actors are wonderful. Her, unhappy, accuser, cold in front of her husband’ signs of affection. Him, overwhelmed with remorse, showing his love by kissing her, touching her, trying to make amends by asking forgiveness… Forgiveness which might be granted only if he could forgive himself, first... A deeply moving scene that makes us aware of the gulf between them, of the love which, still, unites them… The act ends with the arrest of Elizabeth, with the desperate cries of John. While leaving the stage, he pauses. Beautiful under the light of a spotlight, he stares at the horizon and seems to speak to God…
The lights illuminate the room, it's the interval. And the moment for us to share our first impressions, to share our emotion. We are all moved deeply by this show and amazed by the talent of this man we admire so much already ... The audience gradually regain their seats, the lights switch off and we are about to experience something even more intense and harrowing.
The third act begins and Richard gives us a masterful performance. How it is painful to see him face the terrible deputy governor Danforth (Jack Ellis) and see him forced to turn his back to his wife and screaming that he has confessed his fault ! How it is painful to feel his powerlessness in front of the collective madness of the young girls led by Abigail and to see him endure the betrayal of Mary Warren (Natalie Gavin) his little maid came to testify in favor of his wife who ends up turning against him ! And how is it possible not to have a lump in our throat when hearing him shout ineffectual words against the obscurantism of the judges ? How is it possible not to have our heart in tatters seeing his tears ?
The end is near. The ultimate act. Death has done its work in Salem. Danforth and Judge Hathorne (Christopher Godwin), frightening in their long black coats and hooded, embody it. Reverend Hale, trembling, dressed in rags, crumbling under the weight of the culpability that consumes him, is a mere shadow of his former self. The culpability of being accomplice in a bloody miscarriage of justice, makes him try to save lives. His eagerness to save Proctor’s one, imprisoned since three months, allows John and Elizabeth to meet themselves in a final tête-à-tête.
John / Richard, dressed in rags, his hands chained, his body afflicted by maltreatments, comes on stage. His voice is broken, his face bears the marks of suffering, his whole being is pain... How to describe our intense emotion seeing this man put his hand on his pregnant wife’s belly, seeing their poignant reunion ? It's beautiful and it's heartbreaking ! And how their passionate kiss is stirring ! And this tortured and broken man straightens up and in a final act of generosity, love and honor, chooses to go to the scaffold and moves away in a cloud of mist, without taking his eyes off his wife...
We have tears in our eyes and even some are in tears ! The play is over, the actors are cheered with a standing ovation, the audience gives Richard an ovation. We have seen an exceptional show. Served by the beautiful text of Arthur Miller, this play is a jewel. Yael Farber is the ‘master craftswoman’, the actors are the precious stones, Richard is the diamond heart. He IS John Proctor. He gives everything. In rage, violence, anger, love, complicity, guilt, remorse, sadness, despair, lack of joy, in all emotions, in all situations, he is masterful.
Richard is an immense theatre actor.
Version française ici
Crédits photos: © RichardArmitageFrance - © OldVicTheatre - © TheArtsDesk via RANet - © JohanPersson via RANet
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