With today’s announcement of new European territories for the release of #TheCrucibleOnScreen we further extend the reach of Miller’s profound masterpiece of social and political commentary.
This unique opportunity to share with a large international audience the social observation and insight of the original drama extends in a real sense the desire shared by Yaël Farber and The Old Vic and summed up in Yaël’s article in The Independent at the time of the London production – ‘With the audience seated all around us, we literally face ourselves. Like a hall of mirrors, in-the-round theatre is an evocative ritual of reckoning with the self. The beauty of the ancient arenas and circular fires around which stories were once told, is that no one is excused from the conversation. We are a part of the transmission.’
World-wide audiences and students will now find themselves part of this extended ritual, another wave of the transmission, that Yaël speaks so eloquently about.
When I met Arthur Miller at the time of another production of The Crucible, one I was directing for the Sheffield Crucible Theatre, an apt space for the title, regardless of the shared name, I was able to ask him a simple question. It was a crisp spring morning and we walked along the Serpentine and talked about the memorable interpretations that he recalled having witnessed from the dozens of productions he had seen over the previous years. He had a keen memory and seemed enlivened by the variety and range of the performances he had witnessed and who had really ‘got that part,’ or ‘had really ‘got into the heart of a role.’
The conversation ended in a broader and more delicate exchange about time, the purpose and meaning of drama and indeed finally – I thought why not? – life. At 83, I saw him, at 25, as an iconic figure in a young man’s imagination, yet he was now there beside me on a bench squinting into the sunshine, glancing sideways, investigating the tone of my questions. I asked, ‘Do you mind me asking you what you have learnt from all these experiences?’ He stopped for a moment and stared into the distance, and smiled carefully, taking a closer more searching look at me as I waited in an awkward silence, looking at the gravel beneath my feet. He had, he said, learnt of courage, that it was indeed ‘the greatest virtue,’ and that his experiences had showed him this time and again, ‘…its about courage Robert.’
He then quoted from Winston Churchill – ‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak and also what it take to sit down and listen ‘ – and he re-iterated that this also spoke to him….’this idea of courage.’ He then stood up and said, ‘let’s walk again. ‘
Yaël Farber continues in her article with a question about ‘who we choose to be,’ and what defines us as individuals. The play and production pull us into these central questions and, we follow, both the desire of the writer and the director of this production into the arena of personal choices.
‘I am drawn to expressions of the heroism of which individuals are capable. It was for these same reasons that, in the early 1950s, Arthur Miller felt the need to give voice to a largely forgotten chapter in world history: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692…history will show that we are no more enlightened now than the Salemites were in the late 17th century.
The Crucible is not about malicious individuals who engineered an exceptional chapter in history when human beings lost their way. It is an articulation of the endless propensity we have for harming each other – when we believe ourselves to be righteous in so doing.
When a community abandons its ability to discern what is morally right, and when it prioritises collective obedience, it manifests what Hannah Arendt termed the “banality of evil”.
But when evil becomes legitimised and integrated without resistance, how does the individual reawaken the capacity to think? When we break from the collective, making ourselves accountable only to ourselves, do we awaken, as The Crucible’s hero does, asking of himself: “What is John Proctor?” In these defining moments, when the shadow falls over our door and demands that we betray others to survive… who do we choose to be?’
Here at Digital Theatre we hope that the opportunity to encounter both the play and production will light within its audience their own encounters with what it is to be human and what is most valuable to them in their daily lives.