Make sure you go to dinner somewhere nice in the city before seeing Black Swan Theatre Company’s production of The Crucible. As is common in Arthur Miller plays, it runs for three hours with a mostly unnecessary second act – although I may think this third act was un-needed because I was sitting there with the flu! The Crucible is written as a four act production but Black Swan chose to perform this as two extended acts instead.
The Crucible, no matter where it is performed, always attracts local pagans who have not read their history books. Arthur Miller took a lot of artistic license on writing this mainly fictional play (based on the Salem witch trials of 1692) and in Massachusetts at the time the real trials took place, the ‘demonic possessions’ were actually caused by eating rye that had been infected by a fungus which obviously made residents of Salem and surrounds, very ill. This fungus is the main ingredient in the hallucinogenic drug, LSD. Go figure.
Black Swan Theatre Company portrayed very well the lack of understanding and in some ways, the gullibility of the people at this time. Particularly good was Alexandria Steffensen as the maid Tituba. This woman has amazing control of her body and beautiful acting skills. Unlike many of the other actors, her accent was spot on, and her choreographed movement was the only one that didn’t look identical to Lady Aoi. This is the problem in having the same movement coach for more than one production: the choreographed movement ended up looking quite literally identical to previous productions.
The set and lighting choices were very impressive, with one moving set transforming in to three or four settings with very simple changes – this seems the best and most economically sound way of designing sets for modern theatre. Lighting worked exceptionally well and this surprised me, as I am usually a little disappointed with it in Black Swan productions. The lights set the mood of the play very well. So well in fact that the slightly corny 80s movie suspense music was really not needed.
Despite these great points, The Crucible also had its slight down sides – which disappointingly seemed to be the same in many other Black Swan productions. Some actors (and I cannot say which because it would be rude and also you do not recognise the actors with their heads covered in costume) overdid their role slightly and as is common in Black Swan, this was done to the point where at times neither myself or my companion could understand what the actors were saying. I am not sure why dramatic points of dialogue were so overly expressed in such a strong script. It was not needed and the crazed screaming and over reaction became tedious, especially two and a half hours into the play. I did find myself enjoying the script rather than the acting.
Despite trying to be true to the times in which The Crucible is set, the costumes were annoying only due to the tiny little detail of shoes. If the men are directed to have black lace-up shoes, they should all have the same style. What we saw instead was some lace up shoes, some patent, some elastic sided and even some pirate boots. This annoyance is most likely due to this reviewer and her anal tendencies for tiny details.
I am well aware that Black Swan Theatre tries very hard and produces very popular work but they are always very safe – no risks are taken in The Crucible and every movement and vocal delivery is tried and tested; proven to be popular before in previous performances. While it was a decent performance, it did not try anything new. If you do as I did, and have a read about the real Salem witch trials before going to see The Crucible you’ll enjoy the fictitious account of such a huge historical event. This play is the perfect example of how Arthur Miller wrote and seeing it performed is a beautiful instance of his dramatic style of writing.
Black Swan Theatre Company presents
By Arthur Miller
Venue: Playhouse Theatre | 3 Pier Street, Perth
Tues 22nd May @ 7.30pm
Wed 23rd May 7.30pm
Thurs 24th May 11.00am
Thurs 24th May 7.30pm
Fri 25th May 7.30pm
Sat 26th May 7.30pm
Mon 28th May 6.30pm
Tues 29th May 7.30pm
Wed 30th May 7.30pm
Thurs 31st May 11.00am
Thurs 31st May 7.30pm
Fri 1st June 7.30pm
Sat 2nd June 1.30pm
Sat 2nd June 7.30pm
Approximately 3 hours [including 20 minute interval]
Tickets: $20 - $45
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 9484 1133 or www.bocsticketing.com.au