A long play, it seemed surprising that it started as late at 8 o’clock, but as the interval finished and the trials of the second half began, it became apparent that this production uses the inevitable nightfall to its advantage.
I have seen The Boyfriend and Hello Dolly at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park in previous years: both light, witty musicals. This year the theatre is tackling two rather more sombre plays, The Crucible and Macbeth.
Miller‘s play is, if anything, more effective than the musicals I’d witnessed in its use of the space. The young Salem girls sit surrounding the circular stage almost throughout the show, with haunted blank faces, reacting occasionally to the speech before them. Their silence is sometimes even more poignant than Miller’s most dramatic words.
The cast capture the dark hysteria wonderfully. John Proctor (Patrick O’Kane) towered above the young Abigail Williams (Emily Taafe), a physical contrast that emphasised the struggle for justice between them. O’Kane’s bellowing voice carried across the park, and his gradual desperation was developed very naturally by the actor. For me though it was Philip Cumbus as Reverend John Hale who gave the most compelling performance of the night.
Director Timothy Sheader should be congratulated on this eerie realisation of The Crucible, adapted well for this al fresco venue and yet staying true to the playwright’s intentions. The play, although written in 1953 and set in the 1690s , still felt politically and culturally relevant. Towards the end I found myself gasping and hoping for a consoling outcome, but to no avail. The cold night and the chilling drama left me shivering as I left the park.
Catch this production before it ends on 19 June, it is a stunning rendition of Miller’s classic. However if you prefer something a little more light-hearted, opt for Sondheim’s Into the Woods at Regent’s Park from 6 August.
Book tickets here