18 June, 2019

The Crucible, set in Pitlochry, opens this week

The classic, power-packed masterpiece that is The Crucible - the third show to open in as many weeks at Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) - opens Thursday, 20 June with the first preview performance at 8pm. A cautionary tale of passion, suspicion and superstition, the story is newly-relevant, resonating with notes of fundamentalism and fake news, and promises surprises all round.

Living an austere, puritanical life, struggling with the land for sustenance, the Church, to this God-fearing people, is the fulcrum upon which their lives teeter. The news that the young girls have been dancing and conjuring spirits in the forest, means the devil is amongst them. At once the whisper of witchcraft writhes its way through the town and fear and suspicion quickly spiral out of control: secrets of corruption and lust unfold alongside a latent desire for vengeance… and a powder keg of superstition and spite, ignites.

Following the 1960’s happiness injection of Summer Holiday, supernatural marital mayhem of Blithe Spirit, and the sublime 1940s jazz vibe of Blonde Bombshells of 1943, this Thursday’s opening is a weighty gear change to thought-provoking drama, as Artistic Director, Elizabeth Newman highlights:

“For me, like Miller, making theatre is about generating empathy; so everyone leaves the auditorium understanding each other, their choices and the world, just that little bit better or more profoundly. Recently, I met the extraordinary playwright, Jo Clifford. We share many of the same beliefs about Theatre. “Empathy is a muscle. The Theatre is the gym.” Never were truer words spoken. It is safe to say we are producing The Crucible to offer heavy weights for our audiences, to lift and work their empathy muscles in Pitlochry Festival Theatre Gym. And, like Giles Corey, I think it’s important to say: the PFT Gym is wholly committed to, “more weight”.

Arthur Miller’s 1953 play, around the real-life Salem witch trials, is one of the most powerful pieces of 20th century theatre, comparing the 1690s events to anti-communist persecution of McCarthyism. As Elizabeth’s first solo directing debut at Pitlochry, The Crucible was a very particular and carefully considered choice:

“I walked around the town asking some important questions: what can we make together? What will support people to empathise with each other? How can we explore our current global political turmoil? How can we begin to understand the toxic, social denigration generated through fake news?

“However, it wasn’t until I stood on Pitlochry Community Bridge that I found the answer. I looked out at our landscape – a community divided by a river, connected by a wobbly bridge – and realised, we must produce The Crucible. The similarities between Miller’s metaphorical world of 1692 Salem and Pitlochry are profound.”

As the audience will see when it opens, Elizabeth is setting Arthur Miller’s classic in Pitlochry. She also knows Miller’s work intimately through what she refers to as one of the greatest artistic collaborations of her life to-date, David Thacker, Miller’s often go-to Director for his plays.

Costume and set designer for this production, as well as Blithe Spirit and many, many PFT productions before it, Adrian Rees, is also waiting with baited breath for this production to open:

“There are times when a fabulous play, an inspirational director and a production department par excellence, come together to create a performance that is a truly remarkable experience. This has been the case with The Crucible. It has been a real collaboration and one of which I am so proud to be a part. Watching the physical production come together in the workshops, wardrobe and on the stage, has been tingle-down-the-spine magical.”

For this production of the 6-show Season, the full 17-strong cast will be taking to the full depth of the stage, with the major roles of John and Elizabeth Proctor performed by Harry Long – familiar face from stage and screen: Father Brown, The Hunt For Tony Blair and Lark Rise To Candleford (BBC) and Doc Martin (ITV) - alongside Claire Dargo whom long-term Pitlochry fans will remember from Outlying Islands and She Stoops To Conquer. Multi-award-winning and nominated, Clare has toured with the Sydney Opera House, as well as appearing on TV in Doctors, Shetland and Channel 4’s Catastrophe. Leading the accusations of devil worship, and leading John astray, Fiona Wood, winner of the 2018 Leon Sinden Award for Best Supporting Actress, takes the fiery, fiercely determined role of Abigail Williams.

With a newly commissioned soundscape, unique musical direction that includes choral singing, a clear local flavour and fervour - and some exciting, culminating special effects! – it’s The Crucible, but not as you know it!

To book your tickets call the Box Office team on 01796 484 626 or click here to buy online.

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