Aldenham School, Founded 1597

The Crucible on stage at Aldenham

Aldenham Drama’s 2020 Senior Production is a bold re-imagining of Arthur Miller’s classic drama of the 1950s, The Crucible.

The playwright, Arthur Miller, wanted his play to expose the madness of McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunt by depicting a historical witch-hunt (based on events in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s). Director of Drama Mr Adjivan, however, took the inspired decision to set his version in the 1960s, introducing a beautifully haunting ‘60s soundtrack of familiar songs taking on new meanings in disturbing contexts.

Shifting the time of the action was only the beginning, though: the affair between the sturdy John Proctor and the increasingly destructive Abigail Williams was given an unexpected frisson by turning Abigail into a boy, George. We knew we were in for something special in the opening scene. Elizabeth Proctor (Isabel Williams) wears a glamorous dress of the swinging ‘60s while she dances with her husband – there’s a blackout – and when the lights return, it is Louis Thresher as George in an identical dress, dancing a symbolic affair with John (Jack Vera). The vicious intensity of Thresher as George, at one moment a sullen child, the next a lusting vamp, veering from a supposed victim of evil spirits to a murderous demon himself, was one of the most extraordinary sights our theatre has seen.

It should have been easy for such inventive direction to upstage the cast, but the actors more than rose to the occasion. From Geoffrey Berrisford’s leer of excitement, as Reverend Hale extracting the names of the accused, to Ben Reid’s subtle comic turns as an aged Giles Corey, there was huge evidence of both craft and talent in every role.

The enduring image of the play will be its ending: John Proctor’s appearance following his execution, surrounded by a cast choking on nooses. Jack Vera, a live dove held gently in his hands, encapsulated this Crucible’s uncanny effect of tenderness in the midst of carnage.

Senior Productions always have an element of the valedictory as we see talented Sixth Formers in their final School roles, and The Crucible was no exception. But the incredible performances of younger pupils leave us with a wonderful sense that drama at Aldenham is in very safe hands.

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