Scottish Ballet has many achievements to celebrate in its new production, but perhaps the biggest is this – in less than ten minutes we’re fully invested in the characters.
The Crucible, Playhouse, Edinburgh *****
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a busy play, filled with people seeking our allegiance, as a town dissolves into paranoia over perceived witchcraft.
Recognising the challenge of conveying this through movement, choreographer Helen Pickett takes us straight to the heart of the central relationship early on.
Straddling that difficult line between adolescence and adulthood, Abigail flirts with the idea of being lady of the house, dancing around in Elizabeth Proctor’s scarf. When Elizabeth and husband John return home holding their newborn, the flirtation shifts, and we see Abigail and John deliver a pas de deux of sexual passion that’s both believable (never an easy task) and devastating, when Elizabeth walks in on them. It’s a short but hugely pivotal scene, not only setting the wheels in motion narratively, but inviting the audience to join these three characters on their journey.
Kudos to Constance Devernay, Araminta Wraith and Nicholas Shoesmith for dancing such a convincing love triangle – and praise to Scottish Ballet for recognising the benefits of bringing together a choreographer (Pickett) with a theatre director (James Bonas – credited here as ‘artistic collaborator’).
This strong sense of characterisation runs through the entire piece, from the maligned slave Tituba (a great guest performance from Ballet Black’s Cira Robinson) to the repetitive staccato moves of loathsome judge, Danforth (Christopher Harrison, strong as ever).
Wrapped around this concrete core is a powerful score by Peter Salem, whose fast violins fuel the sense of panic and gentle melodies flood the stage with love. An atmospheric, imaginative set and lighting design shows off all of the above, capturing the claustrophobia and darkness of a community lost inside itself.