The Crucible: go and see it if you can

crucible.jpgWarning: Enthusiasm Alert.

I’ve just got home from seeing the Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Melbourne Theatre Company. I thought it was a very good production. I thought I wasn’t going to like David Wenham much at the outset as he seemed a bit strained. But that’s perhaps because I’m familiar with him in very different comic roles, so perhaps it was just a bit of cognitive dissonance.

Anyway, I think I’ve seen the play three times in my life and each time I have been bowled over by it, but each time more so. I recall the first time I saw it, I remembered people in my year 12 English course talking about the play. I didn’t study it but they did and the general drum was that it was an allegory of the madness of McCarthyism. Based on this I expected to dislike the play as I expected lots of strained analogies and basically full on anachronism – something I really hate. Unless it’s pure costume drama like A Man for all Seasons or the Lion in Winter (which has dialogue like Eleanor of Aquitaine has an apartment and shrink on the Upper East Side) which is fair enough, really bad anachronism smacks of lack of seriousness to me. Anyway, it irritates me.

Anyway I recall first seeing it and marvelling at how much effort Miller had gone to to try to get inside the heads of his protagonists. The language seems right as does all the theology. There’s something very compelling about being taken convincingly inside something which looks trivially crazy on the outside. Yet the play is of course a contemporary play about classic themes, most particularly the dialectic of morality, the radical nature of any real commitment to goodness, the incredible maze through which good can be lost in and the upshot of that for those who must try to divine what is right and navigate their way through extraordinary times in which “the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law”.

I’ve written before about jokes that get better with age. Well I guess Shakespeare’s plays get better with age because one appreciates the language a little more, sees more in them. But for me this play is without peer. After the introductory scene, each of the next three scenes that make up the play are just masterful. They meld drama and insight so magnificently I’m still in awe of it all.

Like I said; Go see it if you can.

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