The Crucible #OneLastTime

continued from here.

(gratuitous London photo, Southbank on a full moon night)

(gratuitous London photo, Southbank on a full moon night)

A few thoughts about the Crucible kept bouncing round and some i included in the comments on the previous post, so i decided to include them here and expand a bit.

I didn’t want the previous post 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 just wanted to capture 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 once the download becomes available.

I guess the other thing i wanted to say was that i felt the play as presented, directed and acted was emotionally truthful. I think it is possible it felt a bit OTT to first time viewers maybe, but i just wanted to share 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 she avoided the temptation to use a sledgehammer to drive things home and instead went for unabashed, committed emotional engagement. And i think it is the truthfulness of it that sinks in gradually through the play and drags the audience in. Every piece of the play was necessary to produce the effect, the direction and every single actor.

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It’s impossible to capture all thoughts i had about the play and the characters (i noticed that even the 5th time at the cinema i still kept thinking about what i was seeing in slightly different ways, or rather considering aspects and flashes of images or character reactions i hadn’t focused on before quite the same way), but i should have probably pointed out in the previous post 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 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, 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 matter to me and all i can say is i am trying. (Aside – interesting, i wrote all this before the recent events but they don’t change my view of things at all. It only re-enforces my conviction that we can never sit back and let things happen, that there is always a place, a way, somewhere, someplace we can make a difference.)

I also thought for most of the time 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. The strength of the Crucible@OldVic manifested itself in everyone’s commitment to make it real, recognisable, identifiable, but the strength and message of the play goes beyond that. 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 even within the play the hardest journey to make.  Miller meant for Proctor to grow, to stand out in this community, to conflict, confront and ultimately inspire.

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I’m a fan, so this is probably very biased by now, but i think it takes somebody special to make somebody as extraordinary as Proctor this believable. I didn’t necessarily feel he was ‘special’ the first time i saw it, i almost felt like Salem itself was it with him just being one of the more prominent ones among the people of Salem, even though by the end he weighs in more. It was by no means love at first sight with either the character, or RA. Maybe this is why i now feel  so strongly about his artistry, why i’m so certain about his talent, his work ethic, even the fact that he seems to be a really decent person. It’s the logical conclusion in the face of accumulating facts or evidence i saw with my own eyes, of pieces of the puzzle falling neatly together into a convincing picture. I was convinced, drawn in again and again, resistance slowly crumbling 😉

It’s interesting that Proctor as a character grew on me through time and now in retrospect it speaks to me 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 made him a hero/leader for me. But it is also his ability to make me accept human error and flaws, to see Proctor for who he is and still be inspired by his final choices. For example, with every viewing the desire he feels for Abigail became more evident, impossible to hide in act1 and still we understand that he’s determined to overcome it and conquer it if you will in act 2, where he truly communicated loyalty to Elizabeth. I like that fact that we can still doubt if it is love he feels or it’s all just loyalty and it only really becomes clear by the end, as Proctor himself i guess recognised it for what it is 🙂 It’s the most fascinating portrayal of external display of authority and certainty about his place in the community and conflict and insecurity about his inner self and his place and role in his private/family life. Yes, RA you are a master of weaving personalities out of convictions, principles and conflicting passions. It’s the complexity of it that made me come back for more and the fact that in some ways Proctor still remained a mystery, an aspiration which will make him an unforgettable character to have known.

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The other day i saw my last Crucible, in the cinema. There will be downloads and more viewings i am sure, but as far as the close up experience is concerned, this was the last bit of it. I’m not really sad, i feel more as sense of contentment and almost accomplishment, it’s embossed in my mind and my thoughts. I’ve experienced it and i am very grateful that it is part of my memory in a way that i will always be able to cherish it.

It was the perfect last viewing, small cinema screening but, unlike before Xmas, the cinema was nearly full with a mix of people who had seen it live and wanted to relive it and those who didn’t know anything about it. It was a very attentive public and nobody seemed to feel the need to fuel themselves up with drinks or noisy food 😉 At interval there was still lively chatting and loud commenting somewhere behind me about the volume of speech from some of the actors, some mentions of Daniel Day Lewis and a certain film and a repeated stating (in light of the poster displayed on screen at interval) of ‘who is this? Richard Armitage, don’t know him, he’s ok’ .. followed by the mention of the film with DDL. All this took place in total darkness as the cinema staff apparently had no clue about the interval. And bar two people who nipped out briefly and came rushing back still during the interval, nobody even got up from their seats! The music for the 2nd part started and the cinema descended again in silence  and you wouldn’t have been able to tell people were sitting there watching as there was not the smallest of sounds all the way till the end. In fact, Proctor chose to keep his name, kissed Elizabeth and stepped away to his death, the play ended, the applause came and went and nobody moved, nobody made a sound… The credits came and people remained in their seats in utter silence and only towards the end started to get up slowly, gather their things and left the cinema in utter silence… Not one word was spoken and everyone left slowly, thoughtfully …. I’ve never experienced this anywhere in either theatre or cinema before, the silence and at the same time the intense emotion that hovered there in the air… so overwhelming that nobody dared to speak. Silence speaks louder than words sometimes they say.

I couldn’t begin to guess what people thought or felt, but i have no doubt whatsoever that everyone was deeply touched. And so was i, it never failed to make me feel a lot, every single time i saw it and all those feelings continue to stay with me.

Proctor’s tortured face and ultimately serene, emotional eyes will haunt me for a long time i think. And once a feeling of peace settled at the end as i was walking home in the dark, an image came into my mind. In my mind i was able to extend my hand and cradle that snot and blood stained, rough bearded, tear streaked and pale make-up caked cheek, gently wipe away the moisture with the tip of the thumb and whisper while looking into those eyes :’Thank you.’

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15 thoughts on “The Crucible #OneLastTime

  1. That sounds like a very special viewing in the cinema, indeed. And a more fitting one than what happens in the theatre, I think. I always felt that the huge applause at the end of the play was really brash and contradictory. But in a way, the audience was clapping the horror and sadness away, I suppose.
    I completely agree with you that this staging of the play is unique and manages to do what good theatre ought to do – it touches the audience right in their own emotional and personal history. That’s how it affected me, too, and that’s exactly why it was so powerful, apart from its serious theme. I am really looking forward to whatever Farber and RA have up their sleeves for their future collaboration.
    (Oh, and I am so hoping that I get to see TC one more time in NZ.)

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    • Yes it always felt like you just wanted to sit in silence at the end, but then again applause if the recognition we can give to the actors and people want to give something back 🙂 It just came too fast sometimes..
      Fingers crossed you see it there, would be fab! It is an audience that knows him better in a way so curious to see how people in the cinema will react to him 🙂
      And yes can’ wait for the next RA+Farber project, and crossing fingers it is somewhere we can can go see it live!

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      • Yes, my wish for you and Guylty is that he does more stage work. Movies are great because they are documents that will last, but there is nothing, nothing, nothing like the emotional engagement of watching a great play, and marveling at the illusion the actors create in collaboration with the audience. Even though it is important (I think) to record stage performances for posterity, they can’t deliver that unique experience.

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        • thanks for the wish which is certainly ours too 🙂 there is nothing like the live experience of it! I’m also wishing that if his future theatre work is captured on film it is done as well as this was.
          It’s an experience more intense than any film can be and it spoils us at the same time. For me starting with the Crucible was incredible.. but where does it leave one, where do we go from here? 🙂 If i could have my dearest wish, i’d be dragging him back to the London stage every year for a play 😉

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        • Oh… thank you! i know they don’t belong with the subject, i was going to write a post about being back in London but RL just goes on and i decided to reuse them 🙂 Come back anytime! I can totally understand the love of this city and i like it even more at night 🙂

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    • danke sehr! und ne ich glaube eher ich liess ihn nicht los 😉 fiel mir schwer aber jetzt gab es kein zuruck mehr. Ich glaube es wird immer besonders sein, wegen dem Stuck, aber auch wegen der Tatsache dass ich ihn so als Schauspieler kennengerlernt habe, welch ein Anfang, eh ? 😉 Jetzt lass ich euch aber erstmal mit Proctorpost in Ruh’ Als nachstes kommt wahrscheinlich Guy ran 😉

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  2. This sounds like a very special viewing experience! Thank you for sharing. I’m taking my mom to see it in the cinema in The Netherlands on February 4th, I can hardly wait! I so wonder how she (and the rest of the people there) will react and whether they will be as blown away as I was when I saw it live last July…

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    • everything about the Crucible was special.. i can’t imagine people not being touched by it, even seeing it only in the cinema 🙂 Excited to hear what you think of it once you’ve seen the screening 🙂

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  3. Oh, that really does sound special. I’ve never been to a theatre experience where everyone sat in silence at the end. The closest thing for me was seeing 12 Years a Slave in the movie theatre, and people standing up and hugging complete strangers, with tears running down their faces, at the end. I’ll never forget that moment. Your account makes me even more eager to see the filmed version. I’m so glad they were able to capture the essence of what was so moving, and so devastating, in the live performance.

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    • that sounds like a special viewing of 12 years, sadly never managed to get round to cinema for it but seen it on TV 🙂 I’m glad to they managed to capture it this well and it’s amazing how it brings audiences together in the experience. I’ll hold on to hope that maybe sometime in the near future when rights permit it they will be able to screen it in cinemas in the US as well, it should be seen by many more people!

      It was a first for me in such silence in a cinema especial, nearly full as well…

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  4. Thanks for sharing this very special experience in the cinema, your thoughts and the beautiful pics with us!
    I can’t wait to watch ‘The Crucible’ on screen and I’m curious about the effect the screen version will have on me…

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