One of the beauties of theatre is its fleeting nature. Its sense of the ephemeral heightens the sense of wonder that a performance can portray, but can also be a huge sense of frustration. What happens if you miss a show from lack of funds, inaccessibility or a busy schedule? For one acclaimed piece, at least, this no longer is the case. The Old Vic’s The Crucible, directed by Yaël Farber, is being screened across the United Kingdom and Ireland tonight and Sunday 7 December only.
A production that was lauded by the critics this summer, starring Richard Armitage as John Proctor, The Crucible has retained its intensity in its transferral to screen. Digital Theatre captured the performance from all angles during its 2014 season at the Old Vic and the result is not an attempt to be an exact replica of viewing it live, but instead becomes a powerful hybrid of film and theatre.
With the performers’ physicality very much foregrounded, with spittle flying and sweat dripping, the screening maintains its theatrical roots. However, it takes on advantages from this different medium, with none of the action being missed due to six cameras capturing the movement in the round. The cutting particularly highlights the ensemble’s feverish and manic movements, amplifying the sense of paranoia and fear. Being a lengthy screening of three and half hours (with a ten minute interval), audiences should be prepared for the aggression and anger in the actors to become at times overwhelming. While there are moments of comic relief to reduce the tension, the action is unrelenting on screen.
Farber, speaking at the film’s première, spoke about this kind of art as “an accomplice and ally to theatre, rather than a replacement”. Embracing digital technologies and allowing such a high quality of theatre to be seen nationwide is a great development going forward, and while Farber’s warning should be heeded, it is hard to dispute the benefits of making this play more widely seen.
Even if you saw this production of Arthur Miller’s timeless classic in London, viewing it tonight or Sunday would provide you with a different experience. The claustrophobia of the tight knit community of Salem – with its horrifying consequences – is not diminished through filming, but often escalated through this unrelenting screening.
The Crucible comes to cinemas nationwide on 4 and 7 December. Find a screening near you at The Crucible On Screen website.
Image by Johan Persson