© 2019 by Matt Edgerton

The Crucible

Image Kathy Wheatley

Dates: 2018

Company: Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts

Role: Director

About (Director’s Notes)

 

This extraordinary play has rarely left our stages for 60 years. In Miller’s work, the Salem Witch hunts of the 1690s became an analog of the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, but in fact the play has long since escaped these narrow lenses. The Crucible speaks to any society struggling to maintain justice and a humane centre during a time of upheaval.

 

This is a very charged moment to put this play on stage. In recent weeks, both The Crucible and the Salem witch trials have been seemingly everywhere – lazily referenced to suggest the #meetoo and #itstime movements have “gone too far” or have become “a witch hunt”. But the analogy is a poor one: The Crucible explores a perversion of justice based on imagined crimes. Whereas the current social movements are at heart about redressing real injustices. Miller’s sympathy is consistently with those ordinary folk fighting against injustice. His heroes are the disempowered struggling to stand up to bullying, coercion, cruelty and lies.

 

Lots of people in the last couple of weeks have told me they love this play. I get the slightly unnerving sense that most people also assume they know how it should be done. So I have been keen to disrupt that assumption, to wake the work up from its easy familiarity. No bonnets, puffy shirts or feathers as pens! The designers Maeli Cherel and Georgia Manning have worked meticulously to create an impressionistic design that presents a deeply religious frontier society on the edge of an encroaching wilderness. Our ambition is for an audience to encounter the play freshly, looking with clear eyes at this strange imagined society from long ago, which may be a mirror to their own.

 

This is ultimately an actor’s play. The writing draws many of its cadences from the King James Bible – written at the time of Shakespeare. The challenge for the actor is being able to meet the immense ideas in this work with a full-bodied and full-throated commitment and yet unlock the nuances and resonances of the work for us in 2018. The third year actors at WAAPA are an extraordinary ensemble and are more than ready to meet this challenge.

Responses

★★★★ A full throated, splendidly realised production of Miller's masterpiece...

The West Australian

Director Matt Edgerton’s desire to encourage the audience to look at the play with fresh eyes is fully realised... an excellent approach to a classic text.

Stage Whispers