|Date||22nd February 2019|
|Society||Tamaritans Theatre Company|
|Venue||The Red House Theatre, Plymouth School of Creative Arts|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Adam Ward
Friday 22nd February 2019
The Tamaritans Theatre Company
The Red House Theatre, Plymouth School of Creative Arts
Director: Richard Haighton
This was my first time seeing a staged production of Arthur Millers “The Crucible” having only seen the motion picture. This production was set in the round with seating around the edges of a square performance area and four large black tabs placed in each corner to enable the actors to enter on and off stage.
The set was minimal with an upturned table with a pillow and mattress to give the impression of a bed. A few chairs were placed around the stage and a table also. As the lights dimmed we could hear the laughter of young women coming from behind the black tabs. However, because of the acoustics in the performance area it made it sound as though you were absolutely surrounded by laughter. A simple but an extremely good effect to set the mood of being outside in the woods as the girls began their ritual.
As they dance and laugh in the woods Rev Parris, played by Tony Giles finds them and they disperse. Helen Lawton as Betty Parris, reluctant to drink the chicken’s blood concoction, becomes ill and was played beautifully. The ability to act as ill and not overact is a fine line and this certainly was not crossed. Tony Giles as her Reverend father showed a wealth of emotions in his performance, from distraught father to fiery head of the church in Salem. It is in his attic room, as Betty lapses in and out of consciousness, that we have our first real insight of Abigail Williams, played by Katy Gamble. Again, we saw many colours to her performance, from concerned friend to a contrived and vengeful jilted lover.
Her former lover, John Proctor, was played by Gareth Davies. His persona as the strong husband never faltered, his intimate moments shared with his wife were meaningful and tender, and the charisma and stage presence between the two of them was a joy to watch. Gareth has a beautiful tone to his voice, perfect for the diplomatic way he later tries to end his wife’s incarceration. His performance was completely heartfelt, and he deserves to be proud of his portrayal. His wife Elizabeth Proctor was played by Suzanne MacPherson. This actress is a tour de force. An absolute natural in any scene. Subtle but beautiful reactions to drama going on around her, as well as heart felt emotion delivering her more demanding lines. I noted that she has run theatre schools and I am envious of anyone that has been taught by such a competent actress. She also has a beautiful singing voice to boot - is there anything this lady can’t do?
Rev Hale, portrayed by Andrew Horrigan, as the gentleman trying to determine who in Salem has been practicing witchcraft, delivered his lines in a constant “matter of fact”, calm manner until the final scenes when we see him crushed emotionally. It really made a stark contrast to what we had seen during most of the play. I really felt for him when the story was in its final moments.
Another notable performance was given by Owen Lawton as Deputy Governor Danforth. I lost count of how many people he sent to the gallows. His never-ending confidence in his own abilities put me in mind of some of the worst bureaucrats I have met but he was perfect for this role. I do hope he enjoyed this role as much as I enjoyed watching him.
Another outstanding actor in the company is Noel Preston-Jones. How this gentleman hasn’t been snapped up as a professional character I do not know. Some actors draw you to them. Even though they aren’t delivering a line at the time. Giles did this for me. It was not just his acting that was superb but his reacting. If there was ever an acting class given by this chap I’d be first in line!
As the play evolved and we came to the court scenes, the girls were confronted by Mary Warren, brought to life by Rhea Preston. Again, an outstanding actress. You could see the anguish she was going through, not just through her emotional delivery but in her bearing.
All of the young girls held their own in this production. All so devious but so completely believable. Their work together in the court room where they believe to see the spirit Mary Warren was executed with precision by every one of them.
Other notable actors and actresses in the production were Rob Howard as Thomas Putnam, flawless delivery and I believed every nuance he uttered. Another jewel in the crown for The Tamaritans, Catherine Teague played two roles in this production and I had no idea it was the same actress, as both were so different. A real talent to be able to disguise yourself completely from one character to another. Freddy Denman as Marshal Herrick is armed with a commanding voice and stage presence. I particularly enjoyed his drunken scenes. He must have studied a lot of drunks to do it so well! The supporting roles of Tituba, Rebecca Nurse, Judge Hathorne, Ezekiel Cheever and Francis Nurse were all played convincingly by Sarah Adderley, Kara Thompson, Dave Parish, Vince Sutton and Paul Gillard, highlighting the depth of talent in this company.
The closing scene is, of course, John Proctor being led away to the gallows leaving his pregnant wife Elizabeth behind. This was an incredibly poignant moment and heightened by an instrumental playing of the musical piece “Alleluia”
As the lights came down I felt emotionally drained. This is an outstanding company that delivered an outstanding production. I know that I am meant to find some constructive feedback, but I have slept on it and still nothing comes to mind. Performing in the round always has some blocking issues but even that was compensated by the delivery of the actors: you could tell the emotion in their voices, so nothing was really lost in not seeing their faces from time to time.
The front of the programme states “An Amateur Production” - believe me, there is nothing amateur about this company. The director Richard Haighton should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved and by his very fine group of actors and actresses.
I’m so grateful to have been invited to attend this production. It is one that I shall remember, thank you and I look forward very much to seeing future productions!