Skip to main content

Review of The Crucible by University of Northampton BA Actors at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, London

There is no denying that Arthur Miller's The Crucible is a classic and well-regarded play and that in the hands of the always brilliant University of Northampton BA Actors, it should have been a thrill of innovation and epic theatre. So, why, when there was so much talent, did it become just an uninspired, by the numbers production?

I had only seen the play, formed around the 1690s Salem Witch Trials, once before in a vibrant school production that, while clearly long and drawn out (it's a heck of a long play in this, it's pure form), always remained entertaining, especially being performed by that young and enthusiastic cast. Here in this version directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou, it should have been so, so good, with the actor's talent, the potential for a dramatic stage version crackling with inspired moments was so overwhelming.

So why did with end up with just a static, curiously soulless affair? In principle it does nothing wrong, performances are strong, with a confident one again from Alexander Forrester-Coles as John Proctor, the way he depicted the characters weaknesses especially comes across tremendously well. Elsewhere, Farrah Dark was a revelation as the bolshy and forthright Abigail Williams, a character having to act in a way far beyond her years.

D. B. Gallager was a truly scary Judge Danforth, causing a lot of uncomfortable moments as he proceeded over the affairs. In the complete opposite was the kindly, and sweet-natured Elizabeth Proctor, played with such a gentle touch that perhaps only Ceara Coveney could, in this year group of actors. Finally, I enjoyed Anya Gallagher's Mary Warren, a confused state of a character, wanting to be part of the gang, then not wanting to be, and switching back again in an attempt to recover the situation, only to make it worse. Warren is a great side character in the play, and I really enjoyed Gallagher's portrayal of her.

So, what was wrong with The Crucible then? Well, for me, it just lacked ambition, scenes are motionless, the way the witches are handled uninspired, and just so lacking in creative aspects, less so than the school production I saw even. In a group where we have had a female Richard II, the strongest Flash Festival of my five years, some innovative Christmas shows allowing the actors to develop more in different areas, and Accused, one of the best-devised shows I have seen, The Crucible in this form, gives them nothing to get their teeth into. They often felt unsure as well, with the most slips of dialogue that I have ever seen from a University show, and a few that I know to be excellent actors, giving poor performances.

There is no other way of putting it, other than I was really disappointed with The Crucible, and it's a tremendous shame that this was one part of the work of these actors on display in London, they are all much better than this show allowed them to be. Far too safe, and safe isn't something the University of Northampton BA Actors have ever done before in my experience.

Performance reviewed: Thursday 7th June 2018 at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, London

The Crucible was one of three shows performed at Jacksons Lane Theatre by the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Actors from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th June 2018.

Details of Jacksons Lane can be found by visiting their website at

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year. Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device. Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston)