Theatre 2014 – The Crucible, The Old Vic, London

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We were lucky enough to get hold of tickets for what has been a pretty much sold out production of “The Crucible” at The Old Vic, opting for a Saturday afternoon matinee (made necessary by the fact that at almost 4 hours, if we’d gone for an evening performance we’d have spent the last half worrying about getting home again). The production was utterly rivetting, and the time simply flies by – I was certainly surprised when we reached the much-needed interval to discover that almost two hours had passed – it did not feel like it. It’s very well staged in a very simple manner, with hardly any scenery in the conventional sense apart from a few chairs, two tables and a bed. There is some amazingly insistent, and insidious, music, and the whole thing is brilliantly well acted. We had seats at the back of the dress circle and I was especially pleased (after the Rory Kinnear Hamlet in Milton Keynes where I could not understand a damn word out of the main character’s mouth all evening and it was just as well I knew the play well enough to stay with it) to note that the cast were all clearly spoken as well as stunningly good.

There’s a week left of the run, and tickets are damned hard to come by, but if you get the chance, go and see it. Failing that it was announced on Friday that it will be available as a download and possibly on DVD later this year. It’s a play that I’ve always believed has important things to say about blind, unquestioning belief in any religion or creed, the dangers of such, and the risk of mob rule and mass hysteria, as well as a justice system that does not allow any room for questioning and that in fact effectively backs itself into a corner and is forced to continue down the same road to justify what has already been done. I loved it and it does indeed have a new topicality but then it has every time I’ve seen it. 60 years on it has lost none of its power, and the inevitability of what is happening (as well as the madness of it) still chills the blood.

The only thing I could have done without was the family of parents and two teenage daughters who came in on a ticket return. First the girls sulked because the seats weren’t together, then they pushed past everyone to get to their seats, and then – and this is the clincher – the younger girl proceeded to sleep the whimper through first part, and then talked through the second part, at least until I whacked her on the arm with my programme and told her to shut up. The second time she took the hint.