Scottish Ballet: The Crucible @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Arthur Miller's classic is given powerful new life in this remarkable production from Scottish Ballet

Review by Lynn Rusk | 24 Oct 2019
  • Araminta Wraith and company in Scottish Ballet's The Crucible

In the small tight-knit and puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts, a marriage is tested, girls dance naked in the forest, rumours of witchcraft are spread and the accused are held accountable.

Choreographer Helen Pickett strips down Arthur Miller’s 1953 play and explores its unspoken elements. The production opens with orphaned teenager Abigail (Constance Devernay) playing with a doll's house. She shares a passionate embrace with her master John Proctor (Nicholas Shoesmith) but they are discovered by his wife Elizabeth (Bethany Kingsley-Garner). 

This new production puts a greater emphasis on the character’s emotional journeys, looking in particular at the love triangle between Abigail, John and Elizabeth. Shoesmith and Kingsley-Garner perform a tear-jerking pas de deux accompanied by Peter Salem’s stunning score, embodying the hurt and pain caused by betrayal within a marriage. 

Emma Kingsbury and David Finn must be commended for their clever costume, lighting and set designs that really transport the audience to this puritanical, 17th century society. Finn’s lighting design is highly effective in the forest scene, in which the girls play with shadow puppetry and dance naked. Their movement is tribal-like and fluid as they dance out of control. 

Darker themes emerge in Act Two, as the witch trials commence and suspicion and fear grows in the community. The chilling change of atmosphere is captured perfectly by Pickett's creative decisions; at one point, an eerie silhouette of a cross is cast over the stage. 

This is an incredibly powerful performance which is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, where religion also plays a coercive role in society. Scottish Ballet does an outstanding job of reinventing this classic and bringing the darkness of the story to life through contemporary dance. A remarkable piece of work. 

Run ended