by Dominic Allen
The third week is the week of trials, literally and otherwise. For it is this week that we embark upon Act Three, which is both the witch trials proper and the fiery centre of the play, where things start to come to a head and emotions run hot. Jeffery Kissoon as Danforth and John Stahl as Hathorne, the top Massachusetts Judges, are now thrown into the narrative, and the rehearsal room, bringing with them a brand new, different energy.
The cast undergo another sort of trial this week too. This is the week we have agreed to be as off-book as possible and it is a tricky sort of time. It often feels as though, as one’s brain has to start scrabbling for lines, that all the hard work that’s gone before is out the window. As the lines start to settle, however, the intensity of the previous week’s work comes back, and the scenes we revisit are elevated to ever-new heights.
In order to intensify the depth of our work this week, nearly halfway through rehearsals, we also use the time to feedback on the research topics we have shared out. This sort of thing proves invaluable in rediscovering the reason we are telling the story and informs all sorts of aspects of the production, especially the imagined inner lives of the characters for the actors , which gives the world of the play a reality, a depth and texture that grounds all our work so far. It’s also a good time to reconnect as an ensemble as we laugh, muse and gape at the ridiculous, interesting, appalling worlds of Miller, witch-hunts and McCarthyism. We learn, for example, of all the different infractions a person could make in order to be suspected of being a witch, including being very young, very old, being a woman, having no children, having many children and that, during the Salem trials, even a dog was hanged for witchery. We heard how Arthur Miller, when called before the Un-American Activities Committee, almost managed to avoid his summons, if he agreed to allow the chairman a photograph with Miller’s wife at the time, who was, of course, Marilyn Monroe. Miller refused.
By the end of the week, we have begun to break the back of Act Four, the end of the play. This is all very exciting and we’re starting to feel something like relief that the really hard work of getting the play on its feet is nearly done. The next stage will be more detailed working, honing character choices and turning performances into full-runs and a play into a production. From here on in things will move quickly, inexorably, and excitedly towards the technical rehearsals, to the stage, where Salem will be recreated at first for ourselves and, ultimately, for the audience.
The Crucible plays at Bristol Old Vic until 7 Nov. Find out more, and book tickets, here.