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The Crucible (The Yard Theatre)

27 March - 11 May 2019


A story from the past brought crashing into the present.  A world in which lies and truth are indistinguishable. Where hatreds and desires are born, confessed, revenged.


The biggest show of The Yard’s seven year history arrived in Spring 2019: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, directed by The Yard’s Artistic Director Jay Miller.

★★★★★, Evening Standard, Fiona Mountford:

'Here is an unmistakable sign of a theatre stepping up several notches and moving into the big leagues. 

For the last few years the Yard has been a buzzy, boundary-pushing sort of place, but the stark clarity of this vision of the Arthur Miller classic is something else. 

Jay Miller’s vividly intense production mashes modern and traditional dress to make us examine this familiar story anew and gives us a woman playing John Proctor to boot. It is, without doubt, the finest production of The Crucible I have ever seen.

Caoilfhionn Dunne as flawed hero Procter surely points the best way forward for gender and casting: here is a fine performer matched to a great part, with no need for characters to be gender-swapped. Dunne gives a turn of quiet majesty as the increasingly isolated voice of reason in Salem, a town where, inexorably, every intention and everyone slides into suspicion of witchcraft. Emma D’Arcy is equally compelling as Procter’s wife Elizabeth.

Designer Cécile Trémolières presents a striking opening image: a set of red chairs, with characters’ names embroidered on white backrests. It’s a crafty way of introducing us to a role-doubling cast of nine, who initially sit still, speak in their own accents and share the stage directions. Gradually they slip into American voices, period costume and naturalistic movement, but long before they do we’re completely hooked, as Abigail Williams (Nina Cassells) and the other young women become bringers of terrible justice.'

★★★★★ The Times, Thomas W Hodgkinson:

'It starts quietly, barely a play at all. Clad in what they happen to be wearing, the seated cast recite the lines and stage directions from Arthur Miller’s classic drama about the Salem witch trials of the 1690s. Then one of them crosses the floor to speak to another. Natural accents give way to earthy brogues. Period costume appears. And we’ve been drawn in, wholesale, to one of the great plays of the 20th century.

This fiddling with the Brechtian dial (adjusting our awareness that what we’re seeing isn’t real) is more interesting than the colour-blind, gender-blind casting, though it does give the dial another tweak. The effort it takes to overlook the fact that John Proctor — the sturdy farmer whose virtuous wife is accused of witchcraft by his lust-crazed ex — is played by a woman brings rewards you wouldn’t get with a man. Caoilfhionn Dunne is excellent in the part, as is Nina Cassells as the woman scorned. Emma D’Arcy negotiates the role of the worthy wife with agility. The cast are strong to a (wo)man, all serving the vital and ultimately devastating directorial vision of Jay Miller. This is a show to make a journey for.'


★★★★ The Stage, Fergus Morgan:

'This production marks the first time the venue has revived the work of a non-living playwright and the first time that the lead role of John Proctor as been played by a woman. [...] 

Caoilfhionn Dunne makes a righteous, principled Proctor. The gender-swap is barely noticeable, as the whole production is played pretty much gender-less anyway. She’s particularly moving in the closing moments, howling with anguish at the thought of signing away her honesty.

Emma D’Arcy is equally good as Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, coldly prim initially, then rock-hard and resolute when accusations of witchcraft are flung at her. Special mentions too for Nina Cassells’ baleful accuser Abigail, Syrus Lowe’s prissy Reverend Parris, and Jacob James Beswick’s brilliantly, infuriatingly priggish Judge.[...] A little of the play’s horror has been lost amid the mayhem, but when that mayhem is as exuberant and effervescent as this, that’s a sacrifice worth making.'

The New Statesman, Helen Lewis:

'The advance publicity for the show majored on the fact that John Proctor would be played by a woman - Caoilfhionn Dunne – though the role was still John, not Jane. (Following the Brett Kavanaugh story, “a woman needed to own that narrative of being discarded by the culture of witch-hunting,” the director Jay Miller told The Stage.) In the end, though, Dunne’s gender felt irrelevant – wonderfully so. With slicked back hair, alternately in colonial breeches and a modern suit and tie, her John Proctor was a portrait of both human frailty and ultimate nobility. Truly radical: a woman allowed to be an everyman. [...] This was a tense, taut production, directed with clarity and acted with tenderness and subtlety.'

★★★★ Time Out, Andrzej Lukowski:

'Jacob James Beswick gives the best performance in the play as Judge Hathorn: dressed in short sleeves and tie, he’s less pompous witchfinder, more coldblooded bureaucrat, condemning people to death because of his belief not in God, but in The System. [...] One last point: the Yard is a tiny theatre in the middle of nowhere made out of recycled junk, and it’s only just started receiving government funding. That it can stage such a relentless, imaginative production of this thunderous Miller play for £17 a ticket is completely wonderful, and deserves to be taken into account. Maybe it won’t be a ‘Crucible’ for the ages, but it’s not one you’ll forget in a hurry.'

★★★★ The Londonist, Matthew Holder:

'In a 2018 interview, The Yard’s Artistic Director Jay Miller said that he wanted to bring a more radical performance practice into theatre. This intense, haunting (and haunted) version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible does this in spades, while also managing to tell its moving and memorable story of false accusation and witchcraft.

False accusation begins to crush the community until it bleeds, and performances soar. Emma D’Arcy (Elizabeth Proctor) is powerfully sympathetic as one of the accused witches [...] Caoilfhionn Dunne as husband John Proctor, rages poignantly against bearing false witness in order to save himself. Jacob James Beswick (The Judge) conveys a relentlessness that Theresa May would admire and makes a well-argued case for tyranny when explaining that witchcraft, as a crime of invisibility, cannot be disproved.

The whole cast is completely convincing and are equal to any of the various staging effects, though it's unclear why, at one point, actors speak to each other via microphones. This is a pitch-perfect and completely absorbing version of The Crucible.'

The Morning Star:

'The actors deliver: Lucy Vandi is wonderful as Tituba, while Sophie Duval’s comic charm brings a Brechtian swagger to all her characterisations. Emma D’Arcy’s performance as Elizabeth Proctor is electrifying, and, unsurprisingly, Caoilfhionn Dunne delivers a stand-out performance as John Proctor. Between the two of them the play finds its mark and it eventually becomes clear that beneath the bells and whistles, there’s an incendiary magic to be found in this Crucible.'

★★★ The Guardian, Miriam Gillinson:

' [Caoilfhionn] Dunne is a beautifully persuasive John who occasionally erupts with rage but is also gentle, subtle and sarcastic. When he is ordered to recite the Ten Commandments, Dunne delivers them with eyes rolling and a voice dripping with irony.

Dunne’s John and Emma D’Arcy’s Elizabeth Proctor share a tender chemistry, which warms up a show that sometimes feels too calculated. D’Arcy also plays one of the agitating locals in a clever doubling that reminds us that we all carry aspects of other characters inside. Jack Holden’s Reverend John Hale is light, forgiving and even hopeful; Jacob James Beswick’s Judge is brittle, camp and frightening; and while Nina Cassells’ Abigail Williams is cruel and calculating, she’s also young, vulnerable and lonely. The surprising new character traits are a joy to discover.'

★★★, Nicole Acquah:

'Jay Miller's adaptation of Miller's The Crucible at the Yard blends the historical with the present to tell the story of a small town torn apart by suspicion leading up to the Salem witch trials. It is a female-led production, with women playing several of the male characters, which feels fitting for a play that features the oppression of so many women whilst giving very few of them true visibility. Caoilfhionn Dunne plays the leading role of John Proctor, and both she and Emma D'Arcy, who plays Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, shine in this production. Sophie Duval brings excellent comic timing and presence to all her characters, but particularly that of Giles Corey, the well-meaning yet somewhat hot-tempered farmer whose curiosity leads his innocent wife to be suspected of witchcraft. Sorcha Groundsell, who plays Mary Warren, brings a touching timidity to a character who gets so wrapped up in superstition that she can no longer tell fabrication from reality.

This is the Yard's first production by a non-living writer, and it breathes some new life into an old and well-loved text. The space itself, with its corrugated iron roof which patters loudly in the rain, is the perfect intimate environment for such a revival. Hopefully the Yard can continue to make fresh adaptations, with women at their heart.'

★★★ Broadway World, Charlie Wilks:

'Caolifhionn Dunne does a magnificent turn as John Proctor, having delicious chemistry with Elizabeth (played by Emma D'Arcy). They deliver the text and emotion behind it with such exposing bravery, giving the piece its best moments. Nina Cassells' Abigail is also fun to watch, playing the sly accuser.'


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Photograph: Helen Murray

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