This is a reviews round-up for the National Theatre’s acclaimed production of The Crucible, which has opened at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End.
Directed by Lyndsey Turner, Arthur Miller’s powerful play stars Milly Alcock (House of the Dragon, HBO; Upright, Foxtel) as Abigail Williams, alongside Brian Gleeson (Bad Sisters, Apple TV; Peaky Blinders, BBC One) as John Proctor, Caitlin FitzGerald (Succession, HBO; Masters of Sex, Showtime) as Elizabeth Proctor, Ron Cook (Hot Fuzz; Universal Pictures; Mr Selfridge, ITV) as Giles Corey, Fisayo Akinade (Romeo & Juliet, National Theatre; Heartstopper, Netflix) as Reverend Hale; and Matthew Marsh (Dunkirk, Warner Bros; The Iron Lady, Pathé) as Danforth.
Completing the cast are David Ahmad, Zoë Aldrich, Stephanie Beattie, Christopher Birch, Lucy Brindle, Raphael Bushay, Henry Everett, Grace Farrell, Nick Fletcher, Chyna-Rose Frederick, Colin Haigh, Nadine Higgin, Miya James, Ebony Jonelle, Gracie McGonigal, Alastair Parker, Tama Phethean, Amy Snudden, Joy Tan, Nia Towle, Samuel Townsend, Tilly Tremayne.
The wider creative team includes set designer Es Devlin, costume designer, Catherine Fay; lighting designer, Tim Lutkin. Sound design is by Tingying Dong (content design); and Christopher Shutt (system design). Composer and arranger is Caroline Shaw; and music director and arranger is Osnat Schmool; with casting by Alastair Coomer CDG and Naomi Downham. They are joined by associate director, Blythe Stewart; associate set designer, Ellie Wintour; associate lighting designer, Max Narula; fight director, Bret Yount; lead intimacy director, Ita O’Brien for Intimacy On Set; intimacy director, Louise Kempton for Intimacy On Set; voice and dialect coach, Kate Godfrey; dialect coaches, Danièle Lydon and Hazel Holder; assistant music director, Alice Grant and resident director, Sophie Dillon Moniram.
The Crucible is playing at the Gielgud Theatre until 2 September 2023.
Read reviews from The Guardian, Times, Telegraph and more.
The Crucible reviews
"A nigh-on perfect revival"
"House of the Dragon breakout star Milly Alcock is a stunning replacement for Erin Doherty as the show transfers from the National to the West End"
"This magnificent revival of Arthur Miller’s study of real and allegorical witch hunts has grown in stature since it opened at the National Theatre nine months ago."
"Milly Alcock, breakout star of House of the Dragon, is an intriguingly different but equally stunning replacement for Erin Doherty as Abigail Williams, the spurned girl who is prepared to destroy the world if she can’t have Proctor."
"Lyndsey Turner’s stirring production and Es Devlin’s claustrophobically narrowing set somehow sit better in the Gielgud than the National."
"There are sterling supporting performances here from Karl Johnson as pugnacious old farmer Giles Corey, Nia Towle as Abigail’s friend and foe Mary Warren, and Fisayo Akinade as the troubled Reverend John Hale."
"Courtroom scenes are framed at the back of Devlin’s receding floor and its mirroring overhead slab, as if they were 17th century paintings. I still don’t get the point of the sporadic curtain of rain that dominates her set, but apart from that, this is an important and satisfying show, which has benefited from a commercial transfer. Yes, it runs for three hours. Yes. It’s worth it."
"The National Theatre’s stormy Miller revival retains its power as it hits the West End"
"Sometimes this play suffers from a sloggy second half. Its initial scenes, where Salem’s hysteria is just coming to a boil, can overshadow the later bits (characters rotting in prison cells, minds and bodies shattered). This is absolutely not the case here. Turner’s version builds and builds like a storm. When the heavens finally open – both figuratively and literally – the downpour takes your breath away. This has a lot to do with Matthew Marsh. The actor’s portrayal of Danforth, the deputy governor is part Frasier Crane, part Thulsa Doom and utterly unignorable."
"Elsewhere, star wattage is provided by ‘House of the Dragon’s Milly Alcock, whose impudent and intense Abigail Williams convinces at every turn."
"Luckily, Turner’s ‘The Crucible’ has an unwavering focus and enough brilliant core performances to overcome those niggles. Fisayo Akinade’s quietly crumbling Reverend Hale is a marvel and Nadine Higgin’s Tituba steals every scene she’s in. Never seen this play before? You’re in for a treat. This is a production that will be considered a high benchmark for years to come. "
"A witch hunt for truth-denying times"
"Harnessing horror film conventions, Lyndsey Turner’s intelligent revival conjures places where truth is a political inconvenience"
"The challenge is to force us to connect it with the uncomfortable witch-hunting, truth-denying culture of our own times. This it does partly by harnessing the tropes of horror films. Caroline Shaw’s cheesily churchy music and Tim Lutkin’s gothic lighting enfold a bleached-out chorus of accusers."
"... Brian Gleeson is the man for the job: he is charismatic while radiating a self-lacerating decency. There is drama and depth in the restoration of faith between him and his wronged wife, Elizabeth, a dignified but emotionally remote Caitlin FitzGerald."
"Aura of terror grips only intermittently"
"Brian Gleeson, of Peaky Blinders fame, makes a sturdy if slightly one-dimensional John Proctor, the yeoman farmer who tries to thwart the religious zealots. Caitlin FitzGerald — Tabitha in Succession — acquits herself well in the modest role of Proctor’s dignified wife, Elizabeth, while House of the Dragon star Milly Alcock, making her theatre debut, impresses as Abigail Williams, the manipulative girl who ruins the lives of so many fellow citizens."
"The smaller dimensions of the Gielgud help heighten the sense of claustrophobia. We are trapped in a small, fragile community where people are quick to succumb to a spiritual fever."
"In the end, it’s the actors in the supporting roles who really catch the eye. Karl Johnson, back as the litigious Giles Corey, is all half-suppressed indignation, while Matthew Marsh, as Deputy Governor Danforth, who arrives to apply his unbending vision of biblical justice, captures the zealotry of the true believer who knows every rule, every statute."
"Staged with real dramatic flair"
"Visually arresting production captures the menace and madness of Arthur Miller’s timeless allegory"
"Transferring to the West End after its 2022 run at the National Theatre, Lyndsey Turner’s taut, operatic production summons up a world of entrenched patriarchy, casual cruelty and near-absolute hopelessness."
"Turner stages the piece with real dramatic flair. We dwell upon long, tense interludes through which a large cast of characters furtively scurry, the tension building inexorably until a sudden, fluid scene change radically reconfigures Es Devlin’s design in the blink of an eye."
"There’s an intentional stiffness to the actors’ delivery, especially in the opening passages, establishing the play’s world as one governed by rigid behavioural codes."
"Milly Alcock (House of the Dragon) is strong as young ringleader Abigail. She is a dangerously febrile presence, ambiguous expressions racing across her face as she plunges headlong into the catastrophe she’s set in motion."
"Devlin’s austere yet grandiose design features a mesmerising curtain of falling rain, which sheets down between audience and stage before the production begins. It’s a stunning visual gesture, giving the distinct impression that we’re approaching the doomed village through a miserable downpour, trudging towards the cold comfort of the flickering candle flames and dim lanterns littering the stage."