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Salem witches given a dramatic retrial by Chelsea Players

Review by Emma Whitelaw

CHELSEA Players are renowned for staging exciting new writing, but after witnessing their latest production, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, it appears they are just as brilliant when reviving classics!

The tale itself is sublime, rich with complexity, three dimensional characters and deep underlying socio-political commentary.

Under the fluid direction of Callum O’Neil, the 19-strong cast pay homage to Miller’s prolific literary talent, whilst at the same time giving the text a more modern perspective.

As relevant today as when it was first staged, The Crucible is based upon the 1692 Salem witch trials. It may, at first, appear to be a historical drama, but Miller also meant the work as an allegory for the misery created by the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s in which he himself was also accused.

A small town is torn apart by suspicion and unsubstantiated fear. At the root of the hysteria lies Abigail Williams, the poor relation of the local craven minister. The manipulative and vengeful teenager is portrayed brilliantly by Nessa Wrafter.

Her uncle, Reverend Parris (Garth Wright), discovers Abigail one night dancing with other young women around a fire. Frightened by the consequences of having been caught doing something so utterly forbidden, the lies and games begin.

Melissa James plays Tituba, the first to fall victim to the children’s accusations. The circle of blame soon widens under the careful leadership of Abigail who ultimately sets her sights upon Elizabeth Proctor, played by the talented Clea Langton.

Abigail was dismissed from the Proctor’s employ after Goody Proctor rightfully suspected her of having an affair with her husband, John (Patrick Pilcher). Still lusting mightily for John, Abigail sets about an unfathomable chain of events which even she can no longer control.

The entire cast were superb! With such large numbers it would be impossible to name everyone but notable performances would have to be those given by Benedick Swann, as the morally tormented Reverend Hale, and Sophie Henley, as morally weak Mary Warren.

Credit must also be given to Tim Heywood for his inventive set design. The London Oratory Arts Centre is an exciting space and I would argue Heywood has used it to its full potential.

Never failing to delight their audiences, The Chelsea Players have succeeded once again!

The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Directed by Callum O’Neill. Starring Bill Boyd, James Campbell, Sue Cockburn-Bowyer, Ellie Graham, Anne Greenslade, Will Hartley, Sophie Henley, Melissa James, Mike Knapp, Clea Langton, Tim Pierce, Patrick Pilcher, Benedick Swann, Allon Sylvain, Gwendolen von Einsiedel, Richard Williams, Nessa Wrafter, Garth Wright and Sarah Zeiser. June 1, 2, 3 and 4, 2005 at London Oratory Arts Centre, Seagrave Road Fulham, London, SW6 1RX. Box Office 020 8946 2263

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