(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/4.)
Productions of Arthur Miller's re-creation of the Salem witch hunt tend to be as flinty and hard-edged as the author's prose. But the South African Yaël Farber, director of an acclaimed Mies Julie, has come up with an extraordinary production that preserves the integrity of Miller's language while investing the action with a raw, visceral power I've never witnessed.
You sense from the dark, dreamlike opening that this is a community on the edge of disintegration. Panic and fear pervade the first-act set in Reverend Parris's bedroom. Neighbours accusingly eyeball each other, the 17-year-old Abigail grapples tenaciously on the ground with her ex-lover, John Proctor, and we realise that the upright Mrs Putnam has used the Barbadian Tituba to commune with the dead.