first night

The Crucible

Mike Bedigan experiences an evening of witchcraft as CTC kick off their year with an Arthur Miller classic.

Durham Castle’s Norman Chapel is an incredible space that lends itself well to the haunting religious undertones of CTC’s production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It is also by no means the easiest place to stage a show and as such I was interested to see how the challenges of spacing and sound would be addressed.

With such an intimate setting, a show featuring a hefty cast of nineteen, performing to an audience of just over thirty, runs a serious risk of becoming very claustrophobic. In a couple of instances this did limit vision slightly but overall the performers did an excellent job of dispersing themselves in and around the simple, rectangular set, meaning that it was even possible to get the entire cast onstage for some scenes without it feeling too overcrowded.

On the whole the cast worked very well as an ensemble. The chemistry between the feuding farmers, played by Alex Colville and Harry Twining, was particularly good and the image of a ruffled community being torn apart by accusations and mistrust was created very clearly in the opening scenes. However, stand-out performances were given by Ellie Jones and Theo Holt-Bailey. Jones managed to keep her more low-key role interesting with subtle facial expressions, well-measured delivery and even some impressive faux-teary eyes. Holt-Bailey similarly exhibited consistently calculated movements and a delivery that was tempered to both the lines themselves and the acoustics of the space.

This was unfortunately not the case for all as there were several instances in which lines were lost due to over-enthusiasm. In such an old and echoey space, one needs to take into account the volume levels. Admittedly, The Crucible is quite an aggressive play, but there were a few times when the shrieking and stomping and screaming was all simply too loud. The same point must be made about the more physical scenes. I appreciate that a certain roughness is needed to convey the raw emotion of Puritan farmers, but in such a small space it’s quite easy for this to come off as a bit messy, as well as potentially causing accidents, given the close proximity to the audience.

That aside, the whole cast must be commended for their well-maintained energy throughout such a marathon performance, transitioning well from the high octane, shouty-shouty scenes to the more private, hushy-hushy ones. There are a few minor niggles that need to be smoothed out, but these can be easily remedied in the days to come. All in all, The Crucible is a well-thought-out show and a directorial debut that Owen Sparkes can be very happy with. 

31 October 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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