Plays at The New Theatre (Sydney) can be hard work for the audience as well as the actors. The Crucible was no exception. Arthur Miller is said to have used the Salem witch trials to discuss issues in 1950s USA in this play. However, in the 1990s era of the war on terrorism, the issues of public fear of an unseen threat have a new resonance.
The actors struggled at times to keep up with Miller's dense dialog. The audience also had to keep up and we could have done with a second interval to rest and recuperate. The stark austere sets evoked a suitable brooding atmosphere. The costumes were suitably period without being overdone.
The most chilling point of the evening is when the senior judge of the witch trials is trying to maintain public confidence in the system, as more and more upright honest citizens are caught up in the panic and are lead away to their deaths. After one of his most trusted aids questions the justice of the system, the judge says: "your are either with use or against us". The parallels to President Bush's: "you are with us or you are with the terrorists" is very close. As Millier details in a time when you are facing an invisible enemy in your midst, be they witches, communists, or terrorists, is no time to expect rational thought.
It may have been interesting to change the setting of the final scene from a prison in Salem to one in present day Guantanamo Bay.