No-Nonsense Drama with a Modern Message
A Sunday Times critic called The Crucible “one of a handful of great plays that will both survive the 20th century and bear witness to it”. When I was teaching in my own unpromising environment, The Crucible, with its passionate characters gripped by a no-nonsense storyline, allowed me to march with confidence into the classroom.
It’s a play based on a true story, a ghastly one at that. In 1692 a witch-hunting fury swept many of the isolated communities in the New World. Salem, Massachusetts, was among the most intensely affected. The Crucible shows how the nightmare gathered force until innocent and respected neighbours were tried and hanged for crimes they had not committed.
Arthur Miller experienced the Macarthy “witch-hunts” of the 1950s, when American society was caught up in a fever of anti-communism. He was brought before the Committee of UN-American Activities, where he refused to testify. Hence the creation of his John Proctor in The Crucible.
So, here we have a play written in the 1950s about America in the 17th century: what’s it got to do with Easingwold in 2003?
I’m going to leave you to ponder that for yourself. I would simply feed your deliberations with a couple of things that have interested me. This play is a perennial on national school examination syllabuses. And when we announced that we were producing it, we met a large number of young people anxious to take part. They clearly sense a contemporary message.
Some of our young cast have rehearsed when they might have been revising for the exams taking place right now. It is an anxious time for them and their families. As an old hand in interviewing students, I can assure our young people that when they write their CVs and fill in their application forms, their roles in the Easingwold Players production of The Crucible will give them something to say that will leap off the page.