Review in the Farnham Herald:
Audience bewitched by Tilbourne's Crucible
Arthur Miller’s classic parable of mass hysteria draws a chilling parallel between the Salem witch hunt of 1692 and the McCarthyism that gripped America in the 1950’s.
The story of how the small community of Salem is stirred into madness by superstition, paranoia and malice, culminating in a violent climax, is a savage attack on the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations.
Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the plot moves along apace and the audience quickly learn that the protagonist John Proctor is the object of young Abigail William’s desire. She will stop at nothing to recapture his heart even if this means falsely accusing others of witchcraft, which will ultimately lead them to the gallows.
Director Ruth Ahmed’s superlative direction had the audience immersed from the outset with the actors performing in a three sided, thrust staging, sometimes only inches away from the audience.
Atmospheric lighting and the wonderfully harmonious singing voices of Susie Gow and Laura Musco set the stage for 3 hours of utter magic.
Tony Carpenter’s portrayal of the tragic hero John Procter, a huge role, was skilfully delivered, and Naomi Robertson as Abigail Williams gave a stunning performance, the sheer force of her characterisation leaving the audience of no doubt as to her mal-intentions.
Anthony Talbot as Reverend Parris gave a well-rounded performance as the restrained man of the cloth whose daughter Betty (superbly portrayed by the very young Bethan Phillips) and a number of young girls from the village, he had caught dancing naked in the woods, seemingly having succumbed to witchcraft.
Debbie Green as Tituba, in her first role with Tilbourne Players, gave an extremely convincing performance as Rev Parris’ slave from Barbados who was asked by the girls to ‘conjure spirits’.
While the director's own Year 10 GCSE class from Woolmer Hill School (Ellie Leatherby, Josie Waters, Jess de Souza and Grace McCarthy-Holland) convincingly played the ‘bewitched girls’.
To conclude, Ruth Ahmed’s inspired direction was assisted by atmospheric and evocative lighting (Robert Barnard); a pared down set, consisting of the clever use of only eight blocks (allowing Miller’s storytelling to do the work) to depict the bed, the chairs in the courtroom and the furniture in the Proctor house; the inclusion of beautifully harmonised period hymns (sympathetically arranged by Susie Gow) and finally visually authentic costumes (overseen by Sara Wilson-Soppitt) giving a subtle period authenticity.
The audience were truly captivated from start to finish. Well done one and all.
Tilbourne Players' next production, on July 5 and 6. will be an evening of one-act plays accompanied by cheese and wine.
By Dawn Barrow