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How and how effectively does Anna Mackmin's Sheffield Theatres (2004) production of The Crucible respond to Arthur Miller's play?

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Introduction

How and how effectively does Anna Mackmin's Sheffield Theatres (2004) production of The Crucible respond to Arthur Miller's play? By Jeffrey Li, 10L The first area to assess is the use of setting and scenery concerning this production of the play. The set of the play produces a very surreal and segregated atmosphere that appears to be very striking and unsettling for the audience. This was achieved in the opening scene primarily through the use of floorboards placed on a ploughed field, as Anna Mackmin, the Director stated "We wanted a space that was iconic... we needed to take into account the idea that this is a tiny world in the midst of a wilderness... so we have put wooden planks into a ploughed field.". Since the floorboards always seemed somewhat out of place compared to the soil around it, it created a sense of unnaturalness being imposed upon this previously unblemished world; much like the "pious, devout settlement at the edge of a white civilization" that Arthur Miller himself had described in an interview. While he was writing the play, one of Arthur Miller's key purposes was to produce a piece of writing that would articulate and expose the foolish and twisted ways of McCarthyism. "I was in opposition to McCarthyism... the playwriting part of me was drawn to what I felt was a tragic process of underlying the political manifestation". This was achieved by emphasizing how hysterical and absurd this fantasy world that he created was: "Husbands and wives turned into stony enemies, loving parents into indifferent supervisors". Then, once he had shown the audience that this place was unconventional, he changed his portrayal of this primitive world into a metaphor of the current world, i.e. its resemblance to McCarthyism (current world being 1953 when the play was first produced). Thus from this perspective, he managed to create an argument showing that all this obscurity and madness was not so different from what was currently going on after all. ...read more.

Middle

After the unusual gestures that Hale used, Tituba soon entered the scene. Suddenly, it seemed almost out of nowhere, Abigail appeared to just randomly accuse Tituba of the crimes she herself had probably been guilty of. "She made me do it! She made Betty do it!" (p35). Even though this type of reaction towards Tituba's entrance to the scene was already in the stage directions, it was enhanced further by the way Abigail was acted by Sin´┐Żad Matthews. While she spoke those words, she seemed to choke and stutter through her speech. The audience, who already formed a negative impression of Abigail were obviously highly suspicious of what she was doing and at this point, I felt that she simply was making it up as she went along. I was personally very surprised by the tremendously over exaggerated manner that the actors responded. It created a sense of frustration for the audience when Hale suddenly responded to Abigail's accusations in the exaggerated way that he did "Woman, have you enlisted these children for the devil?" (p36). Because Hale was presented so dramatically, it was irritating to see just how gullible and foolish he and other members of the town were. As the scene progressed, the time eventually came where Tituba 'confessed' to the charges of witchcraft that were inflicted upon her. "He say Mr Parris must be kill! Mr Parris no goodly man, and he bid me rise out of my bed and cut your throat!" (p38). As a 21st century audience, we were instantly aware that there was no way that Tituba was telling the truth. While she confessed, Tituba was presented as a frenzied, out-of-control type of character. The way that she overstated her speech made the audience feel that this was like an anticlimax to the huge build-up beforehand (i.e. the constant persuasion Hale used). Once again, Hale's gullible reaction created a very frustrating feeling for the members of the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet still, Proctor was going to die and since the audience had formed such a favourable and positive opinion of him, we didn't want him to die. I think the point when he caught Rebecca as she was about to fall was done very effectively and it underlined Proctor's good character and integrity. The final emphasis of the tragic effect was subtly expressed in Elizabeth's final quote. "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him." Since this quote was so understated and underplayed as Elizabeth had been throughout the play, it killed the whole idea of triumph in what Proctor had done. As the play was about to end and Proctor was about to die, I didn't feel any positive or satisfying vibe. Instead I felt emotionally overcome with a tragic sensation that left me speechless and perhaps even upset by the death of the righteous man in the play. The only person who seemed to possess the iconoclastic figure and moral authority of the town was dead, the choric role was gone... Overall, I think this an excellent production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It effectively portrayed most of the characters as Arthur Miller had described them in the original book, and the message Arthur Miller had intended to send was ingeniously conveyed. Even though the play was only a mere two and a half hours, I was highly impressed with the amount of detail that was illustrated from the book. In particular, some of the key lines from various characters which had a significant effect on me were vividly presented by the excellent actors and actresses. The setting was very vivid, the costumes were simple yet highly creative, the characters in general were presented very uniquely and the didactic message Arthur Miller wished to depict was carried out clearly. Despite the fact that some areas of the play were underplayed as mentioned earlier, they were compensated by highlighting the significance of other areas. This is an excellent reproduction and unique interpretation of Arthur Miller's original work and I absolutely loved it. ...read more.

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