Presented by University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed 9 May 2016
Arthur Miller’s tale about the Salem witch trials is a very strong piece of theatre. Instead of losing its relevance, it becomes more pertinent that ever as this world is infected by more power struggles fed by xenophobia and the fear of anything or anyone not conforming to norms. All of which is confounded by the speed at which social media spreads intolerance. But in 1690 village gossip was jut as good at pointing the finger and spreading intolerance and the truth was much harder to research.
Geoff Britain has taken a slightly different slant on this classic piece and it mostly works. Some of the characters are played with a different emphasis than usual, which makes the audience consider the way they view the play. Bill Ramsey and Tony Clancy’s set is rough and fitting for the era and Narelle Lee and Trudi William’s costumes add to the drab hopelessness it portrays. This is aided by Richard Parkhill’s careful use of lighting.
The girls as always are played as impressionable and hysterical and Gabi Douglas, Kelsey Lampard, Ashley Penny and also Rhonda Sylvester (Tituba) achieve this. Zoe Muller puts in a fine performance as Mary Warren managing to convincingly portray her changes of heart.
The adults, in general, are often over played, but there are some finely tuned performances from John R. Sabine (Giles Corey), Esther Michelsen (Mary Corey), Deborah Walsh (Mary Putnam), David Haviland (Thomas Putnam) and Philip Lineton (Francis Nurse). Jean Walker presented the character of Rebecca Nurse with extreme dignity. Zoe Dibb was in the pivotal role of Abigail Williams, which she underplays, with little hint of the temptress. Chris Leech is in good form as Reverend Parris and Alex King is a good Ezekiel Cheever showing a lack of empathy.
Ben Todd has the tricky role of Reverend Hale, the outsider and carries the character strongly and Steve Marvanek is well cast as Deputy Governor Danforth. He gives a strong performance, ably supported by Stuart Pearce as Judge Hawthorne. As the wife, Elizabeth Proctor, accused by her former maid, Cheryl Douglas is strong and unbending – a key delivery.
The performance of the night though goes to Kim Clark as John Proctor who inhabits this character with all his art. This would be one of the most challenging roles he has played and he stepped up to the task well. This production is well worth seeing for Clark’s performance alone!
Reviewed by Fran Edwards