Last night I saw Sport For Jove’s production of The Crucible at Bella Vista farm.
Opening the play Ezekiel Cheever leads us the audience through the homestead grounds past the hangman’s noose in a tree. Treading across the hard rustic yard into the austere farm house we slip into total immersion. Confrontingly real. A severe, loveless couple read the bible. In another room we hear a young woman being beaten. While from upstairs we hear Mr Parris preaching against the terrors of the devil and the damnation of the wicked.
Then over by the far fence under the most generous fig tree we see a group of teenage girls with Tituba, dancing to primal Barbados rhythms, shedding their clothes as they throw off the kneck-high strictures of an oppressive religion. A near full moon rises in the twilight of the eastern sky!
Then they are discovered by Mr Parris.
The central tension of the play now brilliantly set up, we’re guided to the spacious old barn-cum-theatre in the round and we witness the community we’ve just observed tear itself apart over the next two hours.
The set was sparse – mainly chains and floorboards. The performances – visceral, faultless, coloured by rural Puritan accents. Rarely has theatre moved me this much. I woke this morning thinking about it. Yes, Arthur Miller wrote this following McCarthy’s communist witch hunts in 1950s America, but the themes and textures of the play resonate with too many issues today! Miller’s genius was well matched by Damien Ryan’s dazzlingly brilliant use of space at the old Bella Vista homestead. Insuperable!