★★★★★

The Crucible has always been one of my favourite plays, so it has been with quite some excitement that I have awaited it’s run at the Queens Theatre since learning it was coming last year. But of course holding something so highly runs the risk of great disappointment if it is not up to standard. I am pleased to report that this production of The Crucible is quite simply stunning.

The Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch is a wonderful place, and the team do a fantastic job utilising the space available to them. When I sat down (always early to take in the atmosphere) I couldn’t help but notice how tall the stage seemed. What appeared to be 3 large carved tree trunks reach skyward amidst what is the internal part of some structure. With some clever turning of the very minimal scenery, this was to become at least 4 different places, and quite believably so!

The lighting was very low before the play commenced, and a flickering candle and deep gentle hum created great tension and anticipation, and really set the mood for the next 3 hours to come. Yes The Crucible has a 3 hour run time including intermission, however at no point did I feel the performance was too long or dragged. Indeed I remember commenting at the half way point, I hadn’t realised we were there already. So immersive is this production that one literally can lose time and become absorbed in the performance. And that is the magic that theatre can do so well, when it does it right.

The acting of course is top notch, with each cast member bringing their own dynamic. Often when casts are as large as this, you can be forgiven for some actors being forgettable and blending into the background. Not so here, I remember quite fondly everyone I saw and the way they performed.

There are moments of mild comedy throughout which because of the run time helps to move the story onward. It is after all a very dark story and a warning of tyranny and the fear of lost power. Without these lighter moments the performance could be very intense indeed. That said, the play builds to its dramatic conclusion well, and even though I know this play intimately, I still found myself willing the outcome to be different. Why? because I was that much invested in the characters. Another sign of a great production and done with triumph here.

For me, there are 2 actors who deserve special mention. Eoin Slattery as the tormented John Proctor and Lucy Keirl as the devious Abigail Williams. Slattery brings a great fire to the role of John Proctor and presents us with a man where we can feel his guilt and his shame, but also as someone who is willing to give everything in the name of love. Keirl had her first professional acting role in 2016, and with that in mind I find it incredible that such a young talent is so good already. She is bewitching to watch. The scenes of Keirl and Slattery together are my favourite in the whole production.

The Crucible is a very timely play and is of course a classic, and this production does it’s legacy incredible justice. A stunning piece of Theatre that all should take in while they can!

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