Imagine the facts become a derivative of reality, and not an equation. It is not what is said starts to count, but what mouth utters the words. “That’s very interesting what you say! But do you go to church often? Do you plough on Sunday? And by the way, do you sleep with your wife every night?”
And if not, can your other claims be trusted?
That’s exactly the world that’s created at The Questors theatre where Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is on until the 14th of November.
The play follows the tragic witch trials in American Salem in the end of the nineteenth century amidst the mass hysteria over the witchcraft. It is a clever allusion by Miller for McCarthyism, which tore apart the American society in the 50s.
It all starts as an innocent game, a childish play in the woods. Amidst the religious totalitarian hysteria, it is not long that the dark turn is fuelled by vengeance and jealousy. The piety very soon stops hiding in the dark corners and reveals its claims for the authority and the moral upper hand.
Imagine the set that is comprised of high and robust but cracked claustrophobic board walls, ominous, as if they are to collapse on the audience. The world created on the stage feels air-tight, immersed into the life-long seclusion. The dimmed yellowish lighting creates an eerie atmosphere of perpetual twilight.
In this surroundings the characters start to construct narratives that support the darkest accusations. In a tense, breathless environment no-one can help but to start to “connect the dots”. To save your own life, time and time again the best reaction to the unspeakable is to join the prosecutors, not the victim: “I always knew it. I always suspected him”.
The longer we listen to the pseudo-moral insinuations of the accusation, the more not only the characters, but even the audience starts to succumb to the hysteria. What is wrong seems right and what is right seems wrong even for us, who have seen all the truth.
Imagine a bunch of charismatic characters each carefully portrayed by the passionate cast. The single idea ravages their society and soon becomes a fetish. Each of them deals with the tension in their own way, and each is faced with a tough choice of either giving in to the suppression or to death.
It is a great casting decision for the devious antagonist Abigail Williams. Lucy Coleshill with her harsh dark eyes and stern attitude makes it hard to accept any other actor in her place for this role for ever.
The secondary characters like Marry Warren and Reverend Parris are for me even more alive than the main ones. The emotional and intense delivery kept me on the edge of my seat the whole show.
Train of tense thoughts gets faster in a horrifying scene of the trail, which got deeply engraved in my memory. The teenage cast playing children “possessed by the Devil” delivers an absolutely brilliant acting, as creepy and deeply disturbing as it is convincing. They reminded me of trances that people experience in some of totalitarian sects. Their eyes and body language, and posture exploded with extreme tension.
Caught up in the cruelty of totalitarianism and unfortunate selfish interests, the only way for a person to keep faithful to the truth and to oneself seems to be the most tragic one. This idea instils fear and unrest and proves that from the witch rails of Salem, to McCarthyism, to modernity, The Crucible could not be more relevant today.
The play makes you think. The immaculate execution by the Questors makes you believe. It is an amazing show.
Now imagine modern days. We like to think, that us, we could never repeat those mistakes. We shall not lynch, we shall not execute without a fair trial. What are we, barbarians? Of course, not us, absolutely not!
But let me give you a little list:
• Muslims / Christians
Imagine again. Do you feel a surge of the emotional thought-stopping argument, a logical fallacy that you commit as soon as one or a few words have appeared? Do you feel an avalanche of a narrative? And this feeling, isn’t it a small step towards chaos?
I know I do.
And if you don’t – perhaps yours is just not on the list?
The Crucible is on at The Questors in Ealing till the 14th of November. Book tikets!
Photos are courtesy of The Questors.