Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"The Crucible" - February 2007

I'd never seen or read "The Crucible" before tonight, but was aware enough of the political overtones that I was looking forward to this production by Reid Kerr College Drama Students in the Citizens Circle Studio. Before we go any further I'd just like to post a reminder of my policy for commenting on youth/community/amateur/student productions and performances - these get judged to exactly the same standard as any "professional" performance, to do otherwise would be patronising.

OKAY, HERE GOES, THE FIRST ACT INTRODUCED US TO SEVERAL OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS BUT SOME OF THE DIALOGUE WAS SO FAST AND SHOUTY IT WAS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO CATCH WHAT WAS BEING SAID THROUGH THE FAIRLY HEAVY ACCENTS AND I'M NOT SURE IF THIS WAS DOWN TO A MISJUDGING OF THIS INTIMATE THEATRE SPACE BUT THE EFFECT WAS VERY SIMILAR TO TYPING WITH CAPS LOCK ON AND EMPHASIS WAS LOST WHEN IT WAS ACTUALLY REQUIRED. It did however become very clear early on that Kirsti Quinn as Abigail was going to deliver an electric performance and was entirely believable in her role. Fortunately the second Act brought a bit of a quieter tone but volume was still an issue with Grant Hamilton's otherwise excellent performance as John Proctor lessened by shouting just too many times. By the interval I was struggling a bit and it all seemed a little haphazard and as if I was being bludgeoned over the head with some of the delivery.

After the interval things improved greatly and the courtroom scene was very well staged - the chorus of the girls being particularly effective. Things were also helped by the greater involvement of Una McDade as Elizabeth Proctor with a very measured performance and the introduction of Kevin Gunn as Judge Danforth commanding his hearings. The final Act saw great exchanges between John and Elizabeth and these were the scenes with the greatest impact.

Overall what we had was an enjoyable performance that with a bit more considered direction could have been more subtle and sophisticated. As I've mentioned in reviews before I think it's great mistake to attempt national or regional accents - it rarely adds much to the role that can't be achieved by adopting a variation of the performer's usual accent to reflect class etc. This is much simpler and avoids the all too often scenario where two or three performers hold great accents throughout while others obviously struggle to the extent that it is a constant distraction to the audience. I'd also have liked to have seen just a fraction more creativity in the setting of the play - it was never about the Salem witch trials and even minor indications of the play's relevance today would have been welcome. Anyone for putting the accused in orange jumpsuits??? It was however good enough that I'm looking forward to see what their classmates produce later in the week with "Les Liaisons Dangereuses".

1 Heckle

Waldorf said...

One of the reasons we like the Citizens Theatre so much is that fantastic intimate space that is the Circle Studio. This is a room approx 30'x30' which we've seen turned into all sorts of weird and wonderful settings.

With such a compact space you can really talk to the audience. Acting on a distant stage means you need to exagerate everything, your gestures, your facial expressions and you need to project your voice. When the audience can literally reach out and touch you, you need to bring a different set of skills to the fore.

For some of the performances tonight the volume adjustment was slightly off. Ear shatteringly so. For some others perhaps the intimacy was too revealing, with their lines being rushed and as a result becoming garbled.

However some of the performances tonight were outstanding - Statler's already mentioned Abigail. I left saying that I wouldn't leave a man alone in a room with her (especially when you can see the wallop she packs). Mary Warren and Elizabeth Proctor were both portrayed well, and sympathetically.

The one other area I wanted to touch on was the lighting. Although the opening scene had some nice light effects, the rest of the play made very little use of it. The lights were turned up and down, but that was pretty much it. Lighting is an essential prop, that used well can really set the stage.

It was a nice evening out - and even though lengthy (Act 1 - 60 minutes, Act 2 - 50 minutes) you didn't feel that it dragged.