The Crucible with Ten Poems

Oct 4 2014 | By More

★★★★☆   Striking drama

Edinburgh Festival Theatre Fri 3 – Sat 4 October 2014

Scottish Ballet’s latest production is a double bill of two literary works that are alike and yet differ strikingly, creating a production that is surprising and emotional.

Sophie Martin as Abigail and Christopher Harrison as John Proctor  in Helen Pickett’s The Crucible. Photo: Andy Ross

Sophie Martin as Abigail and Christopher Harrison as John Proctor in Helen Pickett’s The Crucible. Photo: Andy Ross

The production opens with Christopher Bruce’s Ten Poems by Dylan Thomas and closes with Helen Pickett’s one act version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Despite a similarity between the works – each set in small town – the programme delivers a clever contrast between the two pieces. One is light and playful; the other dramatic and dark. One features words without music; the other music without words. But they both certainly leave their mark.

In Ten Poems, the dancers begin on a simple stage in gripping silence. Set to a 1955 recording of Dylan Thomas’s work by Richard Burton, the 20 minute performance sees eight dancers perform a powerful, poignant and profound series of interactions. The dancing is expressive, with masterful characterisation that not only portrays the characters in the poems but embodies environments too.

Jamiel Laurence and Eve Mutso’s interaction in The Hunchback in the Park is particularly delightful, with Laurence’s awkward lurching figure, stunted yet still graceful, set against Mutso’s eerily piercing lady in green. The contrast of this against a vibrant I see the Boys of Summer, provides a versatile, varied and interesting programme. The portrayal of And Death Shall Have No Dominion is captivating, setting the emotive language against a striking silhouette sequence.

jealousy, accusation, persecution and mass hysteria

In the second half of the production, Helen Pickett’s The Crucible contrasts to this simple and pure beginning with a dark dramatisation. The set is more complex, with the imagery concentrated around the Salem witch trials of 1692. Presided over by Reverend Samuel Parris, played by Nicholas Shoesmith, the large Puritan congregation are gathered in a tale of jealousy, accusation, persecution and mass hysteria. A situation instigated in large part by an affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor, and Abigail’s desire to get rid of his wife Elizabeth.

Scottish Ballet dancers in Helen Pickett’s world premiere, The Crucible. Photo: Andy Ross

Scottish Ballet dancers in Helen Pickett’s world premiere, The Crucible. Photo: Andy Ross

The group scenes are complex and crowded. While they are dynamic and emotive in portraying the mass hysteria of the play, they feel somewhat over-dramatised and showy. Perhaps rightly, given the community’s demonification of dance, the group scenes are less about the dancing and more about the drama, which leaves a small sense of misplacement in the ballet.

However, the piece really comes into its element when delving into the human emotions that drive the play. The sequences between the three central characters, Abigail (Sophie Martin), John (Chris Harrison) and Elizabeth (Eve Mutso), are exquisite: passionate, tender and haunting in parts.

So too, the darker elements of the play, as seen in the woods on the outskirts of town, are spell-binding. Marge Hendrick as Tituba leads Abigail and her friends magnificently in a satanic dance to reap havoc on Elizabeth. Played against gritty, melodramatic music, with sharp staccato movements to match, the scene is dark, edgy and dynamic.

The trial scenes leading up to the climax of the piece are nicely represented and the sense of persecution portrayed. The final trial, where the accused are held by cells of light, is well conceived and effective in expressing its futility. The final encounter between Elizabeth and John is also haunting and beautiful. The piece ends all too soon though, somewhat abruptly resulting in an element of anti-climax rather than of shock and silence as is intended.

Scottish Ballet’s production as a whole is captivating, insightful and contrasting. With the exception of a couple of small synchronisation issues, it is a stunning display of skill with an impressive sense of expressive movement and emotion. But it does leave you wanting more; whether that is a good or a bad thing is the unanswered question.

Running time: 1 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Friday 3 – Saturday 4 October 2014
Daily, 7.30pm
Details from:

The Crucible with Ten Poems on tour:

Tuesday 7-Wednesday 9 October 2014
Aberdeen: His Majesties Theatre, Rosemount Viaduct, AB25 1GL
Daily 7.30pm.
Details from:



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