The Crucible comes to Hackney Wick in 2019. Sophie Talbot review Arthur Miller’s urgent account of a community torn apart by the power of fear, directed by Artistic Director Jay Miller:

The Crucible, a play about a community divided by fear because of the lies a bunch of children tell, hardly needs to be dragged by the scruff of the neck and shoehorned into 2019. And director Jay Miller is well aware of this.

Miller’s production is driven at full force by the immediacy of Arthur Miller’s text. It delivers a take on the classic – the Yard’s first revival in its history – like none other you’ve seen before.

Crucible Yard Theatre

Image courtesy of Helen Murray

The Yard’s revival is very on-brand. It’s eccentric, florescent and crammed full of experimental ideas (occasionally a few too many all at once).

And it’s very contemporary, despite jumbling together past and present. One minute, the multi-rolling, modern-looking cast members are switching between seats labelled with the characters’ names (yeah, it’s clever). The next, they’re transporting the audience back to seventeenth-century Salem.

Ultimately, it’s technology that roots The Crucible in modern times; it becomes intertwined with the witch hunts, with screens divulge stage directions, fuelling the action and division between the characters. But even with these Brechtian influences, this is a show that demands to be felt rather than “got”.

Miller’s piece is an installation. The cast and crew have woven together a multi-sensory experience. This is The Yard’s Salem.

Crucible Yard Theatre

Image courtesy of Helen Murray

The visuals are thrilling. The walls of the stage are static looms, stretching thick, bright, yellow thread from floor to ceiling. Cécile Trémolières’ set is striking, a vision of tension. And throughout the show, Jess Bernberg’s neon lights flood the stage, each scene a different hypnotic, emotive colour. There are times when the stage looks like a shot from Mad Men, the composition of colours and blocking blending together so effortlessly. The characters in Miller’s play aren’t the only ones under a spell.

And yet this revival of The Crucible goes from Mad Men to just pure mad. There’s strobe lighting, creepy distorted voices and masked figures materialising from blackouts. Josh Anio Grigg’s nightmarish sound design makes the play’s well-known hysteria palpable.

And so does the stellar cast. The actors are always turning their heads, accusing. Emma D’Arcy as Elizabeth Proctor is perfect and Nina Cassells is brilliantly subtle as the manipulative and troubled Abigail Williams. Then Caoilfhionn Dunne firmly stakes her claim to a famous “male part”. When she screams the truth as the flawed John Proctor, she screams with every pore of her body. Her solid performance shows that Miller’s Proctor isn’t interesting simply because he’s a man.

Crucible Yard Theatre

Image courtesy of Helen Murray

Jay Miller has taken an old masterpiece and made it a fresh horror for our time. This first-class production bottles up all the surrounding fear and division and pours it all over the audience. It’s a bucket of water to the face, awakening and break its audience out of the past and present that they then keep on reliving.

Sometimes there’s a bit too much going on, even though there’s never physically too much on stage. But Miller can be forgiven a few sins. Especially when he’s set the bar so high for future revivals at The Yard.

★★★★☆

The Crucible plays at the Yard Theatre until 11 May 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the venue website.