The Crucible at the National Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson

The Crucible Reviews at the National Theatre ★★★★

A reviews round-up of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the National Theatre starring Erin Doherty.

Lyndsey Turner’s revival of Arthur Miller’s classic parable of power and its abuse stars Brendan Cowell (Yerma) as John Proctor and Erin Doherty (The Crown, My Name is Rachel Corrie) playing the role of Abigail.

Fisayo Akinade (Heartstopper, Cucumber), Rachelle Diedericks, Nick Fletcher, Karl Johnson, Gracie McGonigal, Matthew Marsh and Eileen Walsh also appear in the production.

Inspired by the hunt for communists in 1950s America, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, focuses on the inconsistencies of the Salem witch trials and the extreme behaviour that can result from dark desires and hidden agendas.

The creative team includes direction by Lyndsey Turner, set design by Es Devlin, costume design by Catherine Fay and lighting design by Tim Lutkin. Sound design by Tingying Dong (content design) and Paul Arditti (system design). Staff director is Blythe Stewart, and dialect coaches are Majella Hurley and Hazel Holder.

The Crucible runs until 5 November 2022 at the National Theatre.

More reviews to follow.

More about The Crucible at the National Theatre

Average Critics Rating

The Crucible reviews

The Evening Standard

"Erin Doherty lights up the stage in this fresh revival"

"Lyndsey Turner’s production of a bona fide classic rolls over us with remorseless, implacable intent"

"Arthur Miller’s 1953 study of public vilification and herd behaviour feels freshly relevant in Lyndsey Turner’s production. Erin Doherty, a miraculous actress still best known for playing the young Princess Anne in The Crown, is riveting as Abigail Williams, the girl whose spurned affections spark a literal witch hunt in Massachusetts in 1692. Australian actor Brendan Cowell is charismatic but oddly modern as John Proctor, the decent but flawed man she desires and destroys."

"... the play remains a bona fide classic; always the same, always new. And Turner’s production rolls over us with the remorseless, implacable intent of a bulldozer."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Telegraph

"Gripping revival of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece speaks to us with urgent force"

"Erin Doherty confirms herself as one of our finest young actresses in a magnificent restaging of the 1953 American classic"

"The key thing for any revival, though, is that it doesn’t feel too much like a lecture in disguise. This, Lyndsey Turner’s gripping revival at the National magnificently manages to do. It’s not as if she reinvents the piece, it’s more that she refreshes it, honouring the specificity but banishing clutter and creating an understated yet awe-inspiring monumentalism. Before each scene, designer Es Devlin wraps the action behind a curtain of lit falling water, the beauty of that biblical torrent offset by bleak surrounding darkness."

"The evening builds an accumulating and harrowing sense of crushing internal logic and group-think; the credulity of the visiting authority figures combines with the bewilderment of those accused and carted off to create an engulfing atmosphere of total helplessness."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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"Brendan Cowell’s working-class hero John Proctor is tremendous in the National Theatre’s atmospheric Arthur Miller revival"

"It doesn’t get much more spectacular than the crashing wall of artificial rain that shrouds the Olivier’s stage before Lyndsay Turner’s revival of ‘The Crucible’ starts."

"Ultimately, Turner’s take on ‘The Crucible’ is full of good ideas and atmospheric flourishes – the rain, the accents, the way the chorus of girls appear behind scrims, singing hauntingly – without coalescing into an entirely coherent reinvention. Which is fine. Miller’s play is both a tremendous piece of writing but also built like brick shithouse. It doesn’t need to be interpreted or taken in hand like, say, ‘Hamlet’. Everyone already knows what the subtext is, it doesn’t need a hot take reading."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Guardian

"Stylish restaging is all beauty and no bite"

"Director Lyndsey Turner misses the opportunity to give Arthur Miller’s allegory modern resonance with a too-faithful interpretation"

"Beautifully staged, it is an almost entirely faithful interpretation and feels safe for it. Where its world might have borne more resonances to the group-think and scapegoating that recent populist narratives have peddled, its faithfulness pushes its themes back to the past, to Puritan fundamentalism, a time of theocracy and the search for a New Jerusalem, without bringing anything substantially new or imaginative to the stage – other than its aesthetics."

"The cast as a whole runs on a too loud, urgent tone but this recalibrates in the second half, with better pace and intensity in exchanges between John Proctor and his wife, Elizabeth (Eileen Walsh, brilliantly balancing inner steel and nervousness)."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Stage

"Thrillingly gripping"

"Masterly staging that finds new resonance in a classic and chills to the bone"

"From its opening moments, Turner’s staging creates a sense of a community on the verge of implosion"

"As the remorseless engine of Miller’s thrillingly gripping writing gathers pace, horror is always yoked to a fine texture of the mundane: Turner underlines the way in which lives of toil, obedience and joylessness feed into both the girls’ triggering act of subversion – sensual dancing in the woods by night – and the outlandish, fevered, Bible-warped fantasy of their claims of devilment."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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i News

"Erin Doherty shines in an immensely powerful revival"

"Director Lyndsey Turner offers a still and foreboding production of immense gravity, hugely relevant to today’s febrile culture wars"

"Director Lyndsey Turner understands the might of the text with which she is working and offers a still and foreboding production of immense gravity"

"A gently vibrating sound design – all credit to designers Tingying Dong and Paul Arditti – quivers ominously as it presages disaster and ever more of the town’s women end up in jail, accused by Abigail and co of all manner of witchery. Logic, evidence and nuance are banished, as the townsfolk are chillingly informed that they are either for the court or against it. May that ever be a lesson to us."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Independent

"A clever revival that shows the perils of self-righteousness"

"‘The Crown’ star Erin Doherty dispels all memories of Princess Anne as a broken Abigail in Arthur Miller’s landmark play"

"There’s a sensuous beauty to Lyndsey Turner’s production of The Crucible. An extravagant curtain of rain cascades from the top of the stage, flickering and sparking in the light like TV static. The action is constantly underscored by the sound of the human voice, in hums or hymns from a hidden choir that rise to yells at moments of emotional intensity. This gorgeous richness contrasts perfectly with its author Arthur Miller’s subject: a puritanical 17th-century community whose girls, deprived of beauty and pleasure, turn to more violent sources of satisfaction."

Alice Saville, The Independent
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The Times

"Erin Doherty is a convincingly frenzied ringleader"

"Here, the performances all round are more variable, and some of the directorial choices become a distraction. What, for instance, are we to make of the wall of rain that the designer Es Devlin has fall over the Olivier stage between scenes?"

"Miller’s trademark sententiousness is given full rein in the occasional bouts of commentary. Some scenes, played out simultaneously at the very back of the stage, were hard to follow from where I was sitting in the stalls. It’s possible you’ll get a better sense of how the elements hold together when the production is shown in cinemas in January."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Daily Mail

"Arthur Miller's classic witch hunt makes today's woke wars seem trivial"

"... the really great thing about Lyndsey Turner's gruelling new production of Miller's 20th-century classic is that it digs deep into the play's questions of human longing for justice — and once more shows how helpless we become when that justice is corrupted."

"The play is, in many ways, a waking nightmare and Es Devlin's design reflects that, with a stark staging in a pit of darkness lit like a Dutch old master."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Financial Times

"A curtain of rain teems down around three sides of the stage, creating a shimmering blue veil between the residents of Salem and the world outside. It’s one of many stark and stunning visual effects in Es Devlin’s set for this mighty, sombrely beautiful production: one that feels increasingly charged with meaning each time that weeping curtain returns between acts"

"Turner’s production is often beautifully composed: one critical scene plays out surrounded by inky darkness. And the finely detailed performances of the ensemble amplify the disconnect between reality and the horrors unfolding."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Sunday Times

"The Crucible is a five-star scorcher"

"Arthur Miller’s 1692 witch hunt targets today’s hanging judges"

"Lyndsey Turner’s production of The Crucible is a scorcher, despite the curtain of rain that greets the audience on arrival"

"From its opening, the show grabs you theatrically, often thanks to Es Devlin’s lighting design. Upstage, huddles of praying villagers are spotlit to show us the fervour of a town gripped by a religious and legalistic fever. Shadows and bleakness abound"

"A great play has found a powerful, timely production."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Observer

"Mob rule meets Little House on the Prairie in an assured revival of The Crucible"

"Lyndsey Turner’s assured production rings with warnings about mob opinion, intoxicating lies, the difficulty of hearing an individual dissenting voice. The arguments, knotty and sometimes overextended, twist in unexpected directions, some not often heard these days: “Is the accuser always holy?” Nevertheless, this is an instructive rather than an alarming evening, an occasion on which it is easier to spot the parallels than be chilled by them."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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Daily Express

"Lyndsey Turner’s low-key approach lacks dramatic momentum"

"Arthur Miller's play about the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 has always been regarded as an allegory of Senator McCarthy's House Un-American Activity ‘trials' but the subject resonates beyond the 1950s."

"For all its clarity, director Lyndsey Turner’s low-key approach lacks dramatic momentum"

"Doherty is abrasively effective and Fisayo Akinade’s Reverend Hale has real dramatic traction; Tilly Tremayne and Karl Johnson bring experience to their roles while Eileen Walsh embodies both strength and vulnerability as Elizabeth Proctor."

Neil Norman, Daily Express
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📷 Main photo: The Crucible at the National Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson

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