Review: The Crucible - Aurora Theatre


Reviewed and written by Doug Berman

Edited by Lizzi Wood-Vashishta



There are many object lessons one can find in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible; but one moment stands out. It occurs in Act II when Reverend Hale, one of the two moral centres of the play (the other one being John Proctor), challenges Proctor to recite, from memory, the 10 Commandments.

Proctor, at first tentatively, then more confidently, lists off the Commandments – and without giving too much of the plot away – he overlooks the one sin he himself could be accused of. And with that, Miller’s play hits the mark: moral failings in others are condemned most by those wishing to disguise their own moral faults – a verity? Of course. But hardly unfit for present times.

And Miller doesn’t fudge his characters, he lines them up neatly: the monstrous triumvirate of defect-finders, virtuous hypocrites and liars are aligned on one end of the aisle. On the other end are most of the remainder of humanity; those who, usually through cowardice and fear rather than malignity, are fated to fail the greatest test of life but serve to set off those who wondrously succeed, even, usually, at the cost of sacrificing themselves.

All of this makes The Crucible especially timely for the painful global realignment we face with the advent of Trump and Brexit: where immigrants and elites are scapegoated, and the ideals – some would say platitudes -- of international comity, global commitment, and shared governance – are replaced by a form of angry insurgence. The Guardian just recently called Miller’s play “The Crucible: the perfect play for our post-truth times”. 

On that note of discord and dystopia, Miller’s play offers a much-needed lesson in civics and, on that level, shares with Orwell’s 1984 the status of moral touchstone.

All of this will certainly help get audiences in the door (and I am proud to say the venue was completely packed for opening night). What keeps them in their seats is the quality of the performances and direction; I am happy to say that neither disappoint. This is an extremely high-calibre production and clearly presented in a way that brings out the pathos and outrage on which the play runs. Kudos are intended for the director, Nicole Garbellini, who seems to give full rein to her actors to explore the stage, and to the actors themselves who were surprisingly convincing in their respective roles.

Many of the accolades justifiably go to the two leads: Tom McLean and Hamish Campbell play their roles with a kind of zeal that was quite memorable and elicited a good deal of praise from the audience (which I overheard). Tom cast a powerful spell as the doomed to be moral John Proctor. Proctor’s wife, Good Proctor, played by Davina Lee Carrete, was also extremely well done. Carrete has impressive range, as she moves from outraged pique to stoic example – a difficult feat to accomplish. Other favorites of mine must include the judge, played with extreme sobriety by David Mersault, in a role he evidently relished (both painful but delicious to watch). My personal favorite was the actor who plays Giles Corey (Daniel Klinger) who tempers the play with a kind of quavering, though robust, sensitivity, not without humour.

My one cavil would be the Rev Parris role. He occupies most of the stage time near the start of the play, and here, the acting felt slightly wooden and the tempo of the lines perhaps a bit too fast. I would have liked the director to slow down here so we feel the pain caused to the Reverend. He comes off a bit too unlikeable – though, after viewing the play once, I sense some of that might have been deliberate. In any event, this is overshadowed by the wonderful performances elsewhere, including by the actor who plays Parris (Angelakis) who develops better late on in the play.

What I was most impressed by was the clarity of enunciation. The venue is an intimate one, and the stage is set very close to the audience, which means that voice, expression, and staging are all extremely important. Any slip-up or falter and the audience sees it. Here, I thought the director did an outstanding job at avoiding any pacing errors and making sure the faces of the actors were always facing the audience for maximum effect (and to ensure those whose native language is not English can optimize their experience).

The stage is spartan – unvarnished, I would say – with few props. All befitting a play going back to the early colonial era in the US. At the opening, the audience sees a bed, atop of which is a sick girl. Only the bed and the girl are bathed in light; everything else is dark. A good choice to begin a play about a battle for a girl’s soul.

Note: I should note that the show last night was directed by Nicole Garbellini, Editor of HKELD; I, myself, have no connection to HKELD (other than being on its critic's panel) or to Aurora Theatre.

The show will be running until Sunday 19th February starting at 8pm at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre. It should be noted that tickets are sold out at the box office for days up until Sunday but seats are being added; please contact Aurora Theatre directly on for more information. 

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 1.8


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