Looking back some more at 2014 (yes, the Crucible, finally)

Sorry for the unintentional cliff-hanger, but my fingers needed some rest and so did my brain after reliving quite a bit of the past year. I’ve also decided to continue in a new post once I realised the length of the previous.

So where was I? Ah, here.

Sorry for pinching the photo/cap. I wasn't able to find where i got it from, so if it belongs to you please let me know and i will credit appropriately.

Richard Armitage & Adrian Schiller The Crucible Old Vic 2014 (Sorry for pinching the photo/cap. I wasn’t able to find where i got it from, so if it belongs to you please let me know and i will credit appropriately.)

And then there was the epic & life changing! Or life with and after The Crucible.

There have been a few things over the years that I have seen and which I know I will always remember, but the ones with a permanent impact on the way I feel and thing are very few (I’m strictly speaking about live performances here).

Seeing Wagner’s Ring for the first time I think is something that makes an impact on anyone who experiences it. It certainly was the first time I lost sleep over performances for prolonged periods of time, but I saw 3+ full ones over a period of just 3 weeks and a lot of it had to do with the cumulated impact of it and the sense of accomplishment and shared depth of experience, especially the very last Gotterdammerung, it felt as if we had been on a journey together with everyone on stage, in the pit and also the production team. It didn’t completely change the way I understand Wagner’s music but it made a significant impact, the journey had begun before that as the Ring was almost the last of his operas I discovered. It was also one of the productions I’ve enjoyed most, The Crucible had the sense of shared journey and physical impact of long hours spent in a theatre in common.

But while musically Wagner and especially the Ring was more pushing against some boundaries and expanding on existing experience, the Crucible proved to be something else entirely.

It came about as an almost random decision to see some theatre at the suggestion of a friend. As I have mentioned before, I’ve seen far less theatre in my life and am much less familiar with plays, especially those which can be considered contemporary. I’d started dipping my feet back into theatre a couple of years ago in London and discovered that I was generally comfortable enough with the language so that it wasn’t a barrier at all in enjoying the plays, not even in what Shakespeare was concerned. I also found acting I had experienced on London stages natural and unselfconscious which started changing my previous impressions of live performances. As as you now know from my previous posts 2014 was the year when theatre provided me with some amazing experiences already, so I was revved up to see a play I hadn’t experienced before and also discover the Old Vic.

I can’t claim it was either the play or any actor in particular that made me buy the ticket, it was the element of novelty and my exploration of theatre in general. I suspect the combination of excitement, what you could probably call an open mind and the complete lack of knowledge about the piece (I knew of Miller but didn’t know the play) created the perfect conditions for a truly unique and surprising experience.

It was the start of a few journeys…

  • A very personal one of remembrance and rediscovery of personal and family past lived under conditions which were in many ways similar to what the play depicts;
  • One of reassessing cultural and social values, beliefs about what art means in society and as a consequence for me personally
  • And discovery of a new passion for a particular actor, his fandom and all that this encompasses 🙂

All these things literally invaded my mind from the first night I saw the play, all at once I might add and it felt like I couldn’t turn either brain or emotions off. The reason I mentioned the Ring before was because it’s the only other thing that left me unable to sleep for many days and where I would not feel tired at all and wide awake, in a prolong state of emotional excitement? 😉 A gentle way of describing it I guess. Except this was much more. It wasn’t easy to process this and focus on daily things at the same time; but in a way you shut things off as much as you can during work and so on and it invades you back as soon as your mind is not otherwise engaged, ie mostly at night.

I’m not sure if it was a good or a bad thing to keep going back to it over the summer, I saw the first one early in July and the last one mid September (the last performance of the run). For my own sanity I was glad the run stopped there 😉 and some of the journeys I’d been on I felt I could now close off or at least I had come to some conclusions, while others would go on way beyond any run of theatre.

Having said that normality was not restored for long,  as BOTFA kicked in and the Crucible came back in the cinemas in what proved to be an all to short time from the run in the theatre. And I ended up seeing it almost as many times as I had in the theatre. Christmas break I guess saved me from myself 😉

The first time I saw the Crucible it felt shocking to see on stage and hear spoken back at me discourses and the kind of rhetoric I had thought buried in the past, done with. It had all ended 20 years ago and truth be told I never looked or thought back at it. Life had moved on so much, but suddenly it all felt so real again, all lies and twisted logic, intimidating, frightening and very present. Everything inside me recoiled and was screaming ‘no!no!no!’. The oppression, the corruption fear brings in society, everything all too familiar. It may not have been religious in nature, but it certainly was very similar. The way it brings out the worst in people and highlights every character flaw, the way some people will play along and use oppression to achieve their own goals, the way everything is tainted by lies.

And it reminded me of all the other lies, the silences, the things that never got talked about and still aren’t, the fact that we had learned to live with it, with all the twisted ways and the whispers about the people who disappeared. It’s the bad things that came back first, I guess because they represented a majority of reality. But once I got over the first shock of recognition I went back to the last act, to RA’s Proctor and he reminded me of terrible stories unearthed once the turn had come, but also memories from my childhood, shreds that I had never pieced together at that age and things that happened around me but were not discussed . There had been a whole generation, that of my grandfather, who didn’t grow up with the lies, who knew a different life and never came to accept what had become. And I remembered how he used to listen to the radio at night, how he went to church on Sundays all his life although it was frowned upon, how him and his friends used to get together and talk, not whisper. Sadly he didn’t get to enjoy freedom for very long as right before the change the regime tore down the house he had built with his own hands and he never quite recovered from the pain. But this summer I’ve spent a lot of time remembering him and pieced together a different image than just that of a loving grandfather, an image of the man he was, different from the people who had been changed by living in a twisted world. He was a farmer by the way 🙂 Yes, John Proctor, or rather Armitage’s John Proctor helped me find my way back to him and they were in many ways similar. It has made me sad to remember many of the things in the past, but it made me feel mostly frustrated and disappointed in myself that I had not thought about them before, considered the consequences, not to judge (as who’s to judge what people end up doing for survival?) but to learn and realise that we have to accept the past and understand it to prevent it from ever happening again.

All of this didn’t happen over night 🙂 It was lucky I was able to go back again and again and see the play and think some more over a long period of time. And it was interesting to observe the reaction of the public to it. I still don’t know how people perceive it, how much of it feels real to them? Between Miller, Yael and all the actors I felt every night the story was real, playing right in front of me with the same intensity. I can’t imagine a better interpretation or one closer to what real life is like under such circumstances. I can only hope it impacted people who have been lucky not to experience anything similar in their lives and that it helped the audience understand a bit how oppression, fear work and how hard it is to fight against the flow. How precious the normality that we know is and how fragile it can be. Therein lies for me the power of art, to remind, to show, to make us feel things we otherwise wouldn’t, to say and do the things we can’t in normal life. It may sound a bit cliché but I felt the Crucible was one of those plays that really can change things, such as it was presented at the old Vic it had to be seen, it had to be felt. I don’t know if it is what they set out to achieve but I think it is what happened in the end.

The way Richard immersed himself in Proctor, all guns blazing, heart, skin and soul reminded me that where I lived among those who had spoken out and couldn’t really be silenced were many artists, writers, actors, singers. They are people who have a stronger inner fire I think, whose aspiration for the ideal does not drown as easily in normal life; whatever it is that drives them, they are able to gather our wishes and thoughts and express them and inspire us to follow. The often dare to do or say what we only think. We need them to remind us of the best in us I think. At least Richard’s Proctor reminded me of that and of many artists in my past who had made a difference where others couldn’t.

Which is why, even if I may never again experience something quite like this Crucible I owe it to myself to put myself out there, experience things, go see theatre, read books I haven’t, absorb art, let it challenge me, let it change me, think about it and talk about it 🙂 I’ve come to the conclusion after all the pondering that I’m anything but brave, but that as much as I can I will try not to let silence be an option in things that matter.

There was a lot more in the play that touched me and the personal and intimate level really connected with me too and I think the actors were as brave to plays this intimacy so real as they were convincing in the big gestures, it made them human, believable. Without the personal connections, the support, love and friendship the important gestures would not be possible either and this is also something I took away from the Crucible.

If I sound like I need a shrink after all this, don’t worry 😉 As the badge I’ve gotten from a dear friend as a gift on my dreaded birthday this year says: “friends! So much cheaper than a psychiatrist :-D”

I haven’t done the Crucible alone but with friends; I blame my Armitageitis on a friend, as I keep reminding her of, since she insisted we buy the tickets and another one gave me hers thus enabling more Richarding ;-); I owe the only face to face encounter to yet another dear friend . And I found new ones on the journey too, to share the Crucible with, and Richard and many other things. It’s lead to silly and fun things like standing in the cold for hours at the BOTFA premiere, to ruinous things like the many BOTFA viewings! (Rich, you owe me a pair of your chic socks!), to hopefully good things like reviving my blogging, to definitely great things in discovering I have more than a passing passion for photography 😉 and positive things like ‘spreading some love’. So thanks to all you lovely ones and the current readers and future ones, you’ve saved me a massive bill!

And make me smile every day 🙂

So, not an easy year but a busy one, a very intense one in fact, leaving me feeling energised and more purposeful and very enriched and very very grateful for it.

Thank you everyone who has been part of the journey and hope you’ll all be there for a while longer 🙂

Aaaah… before I forget, thanks Richard for inspiring me in so many ways! A pleasure bumping into you on the journey and hopefully see you soon 🙂

(well, in fact there is this BOTFA IMAX thing tomorrow.. but that’s for 2015 😉 )

28 thoughts on “Looking back some more at 2014 (yes, the Crucible, finally)

  1. Hari, das ist die beindruckenste Review die ich über the crucible gelesen habe! Und ich freue mich, dass Du Deine Gefühle und Erinnerungen über Deine Familie mit uns geteilt hast, das hat mich sehr berührt. Schon erstaunlich welche Erinnerungen durch ein Theaterstück geweckt werden können, die Themen sind doch immer wieder aktuell, man muss sagen, leider noch.
    Ich hätte das Stück auch gerne ein weiteres Mal gesehen, es gab wahrscheinlich so viel zu entdecken, was man beim ersten Mal gar nicht gesehen hat. Du hattest zum Glück mehrmals die Gelegenheit dazu im Theater,mit all den Gefühlen die dort greifbar sind! Ist das im Kino auch so? Bei uns läuft es nur einmal am 2. Februar, wobei es irgendwann bestimmt! auf DVD rauskommt….. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • ja es hat nicht sehr leicht gefallen all das niederzuschreiben oder aus den vielen Gedanken und Geschreibsel das ich liegen haben etwas zu wahlen was ich hier offentlich stehen lassen kann… ich finde es auch traurig dass solche Sachen heute wie immer so aktuell sind, ich fand en Brief aus dem R gelesen hat bei dem in conversation auch sehr bewegend. Es hat sich irgendwie uber mehrere Vorstellungen entwickelt weil ich ein paar Sachen fur mich abgeschlossen habe und mich dann letztendlich nur auf das Stuck konzentrieren kann. ich will die nicht die Freude an den Details nehmen 😉 Aber ja es wirkt genauso beeindruckend wie im Theater, besonder weil man manche Details sogar naher sehen kann und manche Sachen entdeckt die man vor Ort nicht sehen konnte, ich fand den 2 Akt irgendwie doch im Theater mehr besonders, die Spannung hat sich da besser im Raum ausgebreitet hingegen habe ich im 3 und im 4 besonders bei R mehr Details sehen konnen. Der 4 Akt ist unglaublich und obwohl ich es jetzt 4 Mal im Kino gesehen habe hat es mich bei jemdem Mal total durchwuhlt. Ich bin immer wieder auss Neue beeindruckt wie er sich da reingeschmissen hat und was er bereit ist von sich zu geben und wie sehr er als Proctor das lebt und erlebt. Ich bin mir sicher es wird dir sehr gefallen und wenn wir es mal runterladen konnen konnen wir uns bestimmt Highlights immer wieder ansehen. Er kann wirklich stolz sein auf die Leistung und das was er vielen Leuten damit mitgegeben hat als Erfahrung, es hat sich fur mich total wahr und lebensecht angefuhlt.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you so much, Hariclea, for that very moving account of what The Crucible meant to you. Most of us in this country have no personal experience such as yours, although I worked in communist Russia for three years and saw the fear first-hand. When I saw the play, it made me think of the real people who went through this so many years ago and the actors made them very real to me: I cried for them and I was uplifted by their courage and I thought of current political situations – but I can’t claim that anything like this has ever actually happened to me. I followed The Crucible twitter feed and I remember your first tweets about the play: they stood out as something special.


    • Welcome and thanks for commenting. You’re right, i think this is why the Crucible was so extraordinary to many people because it felt real and it amazes me every time i see it again ( and i am sure i will go back to it over the years 🙂 ) who real and truthful it feels. I think it is what theatre aspires to be, and this certainly was great theatre. Every single performance was truthful and lifelike and i just wanted to point that out and thank everyone involved for their extraordinary engagement and commitment to the piece. I hope they know they made a difference 🙂


  3. You may not call yourself brave, but even in the anonymity of the internet I consider it brave to write such a personal and touching review. Beautifully written! Reading it makes me regret a bit more that I did not go to see The Crucible. But it simply didn’t feel like the right time for me, and additionally, like you, I haven’t seen much theatre, I’m more into music. Maybe, one day, there’ll be another chance. 😉


    • well, it took me more than 6 months to share a bit of it 😉 it was much braver i thought for the actors to put themselves out there on stage the way they did. Yael certainly is a great director to coax such performances out 🙂 I hope in just a couple of months it will be available for download on Digital Theatre, you could download it and watch it, i’d encourage you to give it a try, harrowing thought it is, i found it also incredibly uplifting and reaffirming 🙂


      • I most certainly will do that and am very much looking forward to it! There are some cinema screenings here in Germany in a couple of weeks, but unfortunately I’d have to drive 2 hrs to the closest cinema, in the middle of the week, and that’s simply not possible.


        • what a pity but at least we know it will be available online and i don’t think with this screen size matters a lot, it’s not like there are big landscapes or sets. Close ups will translate equally well to a TV screen 🙂


  4. What a moving example of the power of theatre to have a profound impact on our lives. I am glad that you shared your story. BTW I have only seen the “Ring” on television, but I watched the entire thing all the way through. It was mesmerizing. I can only imagine what a live performance would feel like!


    • if you ever get the chance to see the Ring, do! I know Wagner is all sorts and i don’t much like the man though i am fascinated with his music; he could picture much better people than he was 😉 It’s a very interesting experience and you find yourself touched by things that on paper just looked ridiculous 🙂 I never expected to be sitting there crying my heart out during the last act of Walkure or at the end of Gotterdammerung, but i did, every single time 🙂

      And yes the Crucible was moving beyond words and although i have captured some more personal element here the truth is once that is processed and the circle closed it still is equally moving, through the performances themselves. No matter how well you know the piece or each performances, it is so intense it takes you on the journey and captures you every single time. The impact does not wear off at all 🙂 Especially the one, i have to say in actually a very objective way since i have unfortunately not had the time to see much else of him yet besides BOTFA.


      • Yes, I have had a theater experience like that, where a show was just as intense each time you see it. It is actually quite tiring, since you feel like a worn out dish rag afterwards! And yet you want to see it again. I don’t know how actors (or musicians) can sustain that kind of energy. That’s real talent, I suppose!


        • exactly! it felt like hard work 😉 i don’t think i would have been able to see the play twice in a day. How any of the actors got through it every day is still beyond my comprehension, especially in something as dramatic. But i think few of us who don’t have such professions that require presenting ourselves on stage can imagine sharing and living emotions like that in front of an audience… Thank God there are brilliant actors out there who do 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            • no clue! and i think i don’t want to know 😉 Imagine if people could learn to display emotions like that and inside they could tick off their shopping list or something?! 😉 I don’t think that’s the case but i think the display of emotions was unsettling enough that i don’t want to know how one gets there in front of an audience. Let that be their magic to know about and exercise on us 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  5. What a deeply personal experience seeing The Crucible turned out to be for you- I wasn’t expecting to be reading such a moving account, and I thank you for sharing it with us here.

    For all of us who didn’t get the chance to see it live, I hope the cinema experience will be an affecting one as well- I’m so looking forward to finally seeing it next month.


    • thanks for reading, maybe just to point out that there is nothing as dramatic hidden as Proctor’s experience 🙂 But i understand the kind of environment it captures. The play is very good at that, much better than i would have expected any play to be able to show such experiences.
      And yes i can definitely say without the shadow of a doubt that the cinema version is very very close indeed to the actual live in the theatre. The emotional impact is not at all diminished, the truth of it is so powerful that i am absolutely sure you will experience a very similar impact viewing it as we have in the theatre 🙂 I can’t wait for people to see it who haven’t had the chance before the read what they feel and have to say about it 🙂


  6. That was a really personal review – interesting and very valid, especially as RA himself drew the connecting lines between the atmosphere of oppression in the play and RL events in totalitarian Eastern Europe. On the whole, Yael Farber’s interpretation of TC did what good theatre is supposed to do – it hit the audience members exactly at the points where it hurt them individually, and where the impetus for change may be awakened. In that sense, there is no one’s interpretation or conclusion taken from the play more valid than any other’s – as long as people are moved into action. I am gonna be a total spoilsport and say that RA was only a little cog in that larger wheel that Farber set into motion – but an essential one. And I am really looking forward to finding out what the two of them are cooking up as a future project.


    • To be fair i wasn’t surprised at his reference, but i found the letter he mentioned and which wasn’t from EE (the boy) even more touching. I didn’t want this to sound as a bleak story of Eastern Europe, which it is not. I know ultimately i am lucky and i also understand that things were not black and white. I hope readers understand that this is just a very personal view and by no means an interpretation of the play or its impact or what i expect people would feel seeing it. I hesitated for a long time if to write about this at all and have done so only partially as in a way the play was only a trigger and the thoughts about the past have many motivations. I’m just disclosing some of the more personal reasons why the Crucible meant a lot to me. It’s because it felt like this to me that i genuinely wonder what it meant to other people and how it impacted audiences based on their very different experiences… And i hope people will continue to share their thoughts.
      I guess the other thing i wanted to say was that i felt the play as presented, directed and acted felt emotionally truthful. I think it is possible it felt OTT maybe but i just wanted to give my opinion on that matter and say that it felt very real to me and by no means exaggerated. It’s where i admire Farber’s work most, that for me she avoided the temptation to use a sledgehammer to drive things home and instead went for unabashed, committed emotional engagement.
      I agree that every piece was necessary to produce the effect, the direction and every single actor.

      It’s been impossible to capture all thoughts about the play and the characters but i should have probably pointed out above and i failed to do so that the character that i identify with the most is not Proctor, but Hale. And the past plays a big role in it, i’d put life above all other values too (which is why my own conclusion about the past is that it should not be a blame game, everybody lied for safety – but where my own dilemma lies and my own doubts is in the lack of consideration and learning and thinking about the past and understanding it). The play forced me to think about things and accept some things, including the fact that i would never be a person of action. But it reminded me that my life today is owed to those who did act and i should not allow myself to be as complacent as i’ve been, if you will, that the least i should do is try to make a difference. I know it all sounds like a big pile of… but it does make a difference and all i can say is i am trying.

      I also thought all elements were equally weighted in the play and i still think that if any one of the actors would not have been as good as they were the whole would not have been as brilliant. But having seen a bit more of it recently i believe it is so inspiring because it not only shows us what we can easily recognise from around us, but also what we don’t encounter every day, the people who are extraordinary or become that, outgrow their faults? And that is Proctor 🙂 I think we need people like Proctor and that was i think even within the play the hardest journey to make.
      I’m a fan, so this is probably very biased by now, but don’t you think it takes somebody special to make somebody as extraordinary as Proctor this believable?


      • Thanks for the long reply – I actually think you should incorporate some of it in your original post, because it adds to your personal evaluation of the play’s impact.
        Was the last sentence in your reply a genuine question or rhetorically posed?


        • it was a genuine question 🙂 as mentioned at the beginning it was too much to separate anyone but the more i saw of it the more he stood out, both Proctor and R as Proctor 🙂 I know we are weary or careful of fangirling a bit too much or loosing objectivity because we are fans. I wouldn’t call his Gary Fuller great or anything like that, it’s nice in passing 😉 I think his Thorin is great but there are also other good performances in that too. It is of course impossible to separate role from actor completely, not all of them challenge him the same way. But i think our care in not being blinded by personal fandom should not stop us from recognising publicly without reserve when he is truly extraordinary 🙂 And i think he as Proctor deserves that. But it is only my personal view of things 🙂 Feel free to rebut me 😉


            • i didn’t feel he was the first time i saw it, i almost felt like Salem itself was it with him just being one of the more prominent ones, even though by the end he weighs in more. It’s interesting that Proctor as a character grew on me through time and to me it spoke well of his ability to be subtle in his acting that he managed to trace the path from one of the main members of the community to outspoken leader in a way, it’s that change that makes him a hero/leader for me. i see another post coming :-p


        • and i’ll try to add more in, i meant to but was just too tired to continue… i always feel there is so much more to say about the Crucible and always wanted to go back to it. But i’ll take you advice and add to the main text 🙂 S is so much better at this than i am :-)… it hurts my head sometimes trying to organise my own thoughts into something readable LOL

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The Crucible #OneLastTime | Opera is Magic

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