Following its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival and subsequent tour of Scotland, Scottish Ballet’s production of The Crucible returns to Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre for its final performances before crossing over to Washington, D.C. for an American run.
Based on Arthur Miller’s celebrated 1953 play, itself inspired by the Salem witch trials of 1692-3, The Crucible is an explosive and immensely enjoyable new ballet that has the potential to become a modern classic. This production plunges us right into the heart of the action that takes place off stage in Miller’s play, depicting Abigail, a young girl on the verge of womanhood, and her sexual encounter with John Proctor, her employer. When John’s wife Elizabeth catches them, a hurt Abigail seeks a way to curse her, and soon she and her friends become embroiled in a spiral of accusations of witchcraft over which they quickly lose control.
The original play, with its focus on the hysteria and subsequent tragedy essentially caused by life under the constraints of an authoritarian regime, was written as an allegory for McCarthyism. Bearing this political subtext and the play’s penchant for heavy dialogue in mind, it could easily be seen by many as a surprising choice for a ballet. However, thanks to Helen Pickett’s seamless choreography and Peter Salem’s haunting score, any fears are quickly allayed. In the hands of Scottish Ballet, The Crucible translates beautifully to the medium of dance. The choreography is cleverly synchronised to the music, ranging in style from more classical and lyrical sequences to contemporary ones accompanied by a modern soundtrack. The dancers, in particular Constance Devernay (Abigail), Barnaby Rook-Bishop (John Proctor) and Bethany Kingsley-Garner (Elizabeth Proctor), effortlessly portray the nuances of the original play’s meaty dialogue through their expressive movement – indeed, especially during the sequences between John and Elizabeth, we are able to interpret the course of their conversation through their bodies just as easily as if it were through words. David Flynn and Emma Kingbury’s minimalistic set design is effective throughout, most notably in the final moments of the production, where it perfectly complements the dramatic end.
This production is the first of Scottish Ballet’s ‘Five in Five’, during which they plan to stage five new full-length ballets as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. If The Crucible is anything to go by, then the following instalments of ‘Five in Five’ will be unmissable.
Scottish Ballet: The Crucible runs at the Festival Theatre until Friday 18 October 2019.