Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

The Unity Theatre
5th - 7th July 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

The play takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1962, but the parallels between the witch-hunt in Salem in 1692 and the McCarthyism of the 1950s across America are frightening. Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory of McCarthyism: the era in which the American Government, led by a young Senator called Joseph McCarthy, accused innocent people, often artists and writers, of being communists. Miller himself was accused of having communist sympathies and was called in front of the committee for questioning. Many reputations and livelihoods were destroyed by this and even today it remains an embarrassing time in America’s history.

Miller did not use historical records for his characters; he merged people from history and moulded them to suit the play. He uses fewer girls and raised the age of antagonist Abigail Williams from 11 to 17 to allow for the fictional sexual relationship with protagonist John Procter - and accordingly lowers his age, as history dictates that he would have been 70 at the time of the trials. Putting sexual jealousy as the root cause of the lies that led to persecution allowed Miller more creative freedom with his writing. Like the trials of McCarthyism, the Salem witch trials required no evidence and were widely publicised in the community, forever tarnishing names and reputations. Both Salem and McCarthyism have become synonymous with failed justice.

The Crucible has been reproduced many times all over the world due to the underlying story being as relevant today as it has ever been; the basic threat of persecution and accusation due to people’s beliefs is still a problem today. This production brought to Unity by Merseyside Academy of Drama and Josef Weinburger Ltd, although an amateur production, was superb. The cast wonderfully told the heart wrenching tale of loyalties, lies and failed justice. Nakib Narat as John Proctor was outstanding, his face etched with despair and desperation. While Jessica Olwyn as Abigail Williams perfected the manipulative jealousy of a scorned woman perfectly, each sly glance carefully played out to a captivated audience.

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