The Crucible

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Five stars

Three performances – seen by over 6000 people – at the recent Edinburgh International Festival firmly established Scottish Ballet’s new production of The Crucible as a work of compelling human drama.

The company now take the piece on tour across Scotland – grab a ticket, if you can. You will be rewarded with outstanding performances by dancers who believe – and revel in the nuanced lines of their bodies – that the steps created by choreographer Helen Pickett contain the momentum of moral and emotional conflicts.

Pickett’s moves, moreover, open up timeless dimensions to Arthur Miller’s play – his witch hunts in Salem now echo beyond the McCarthyism of 1940s and 50s America, they resonate with the tensions that arise when individuals clash with authoritarian controls and lies ignite a hysteria.

Across two fast-moving acts, and abetted by Peter Salem’s atmospheric score, Pickett weaves a cat’s cradle of power plays. Claire Souet’s Abigail – almost a non-person to the Proctors – uses her burgeoning womanhood to catch John Proctor’s eye: she craves affection, he sees their fever-pitch coupling as regrettable sex.

Souet is soon visibly seething with spite and hurt. She searches out Tituba (guest artist Katlyn Addison) in hopes of a revenge spell. Silly-scary games in the forest twist into real horror. A tight knit, God-fearing community splinters. The orchestrated semaphoring of faith, conducted by a punctilious Reverend Parris (Jamiel Laurence) gives way to a predatory whirlwind of witch-finding, where the Men of God dance with a zealous, macho swagger. The shadows on the screens loom like demons. Addison’s Tituba, who moves as if she had sun in her bones, is doomed. John Proctor (Barnaby Rook-Bishop) and wife Elizabeth (Bethany Kingsley-Garner) have, meanwhile, reached a renewed faith in each other, their duets of reconciliation and strengthening love given a truth and tenderness that transcends technical finesse. His final solo, where conscience battles a yen for life, is the very essence of this impressively far-reaching Crucible.