WHEN Arthur Miller’s 1953 play about the 17th-century Salem witch trials in Massachusetts is played out in theatres a hundred years from now, it will still be relevant thanks to society’s inevitable paranoia and prejudices. Such is the human condition.
Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street
An allegory of the anti-Communist investigations of the House Of un-American Activities Committee, if it weren’t for the costumes and set, the play could be about modern-day religious fundamentalism.
Here, director John Dove has created a literally dark and stark atmosphere (as if it’s all one long 165 minute nightmare) that bubbles with toil and trouble. Spurned harlot, Abigail (Meghan Tyler), is out for revenge against former lover, farmer John Proctor (Philip Cairns), and she wastes no time accusing numerous townsfolk of witchcraft to save her own skin.
Hysteria ensues, the mob rule, and everyone is guilty until proven innocent. The rampant suspicion and lust for a scapegoat is all consuming as hidden agendas reveal themselves.
Many will recognise the spiteful little witches from life. There’s a certain devilment to the way they all speak in concert, their childish methods of manipulation all too transparent.
Despite 19 actors on stage, proceedings never get confusing. In fact, the large ensemble cast adds necessary weight to the highly-charged, cackling mood within the province. Credit to the young actors from the Lyceum Youth Theatre who also did a tremendous job.
Saint or sinner, if John Proctor was around today, many on social media would say, “We are all John Proctor,” while others would be quick to judge, vilifying him without carefully weighing up the facts.
Runs until 19 March