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THE CRUCIBLE (article first published : 2006-09-10)

The UKZN Drama and Performance Studies department has linked up with a company called Possible Productions to present The Crucible at the Square Space on the Durban campus. Possible Productions is made up of members of the Honours Acting course and this presentation has been a collaborative effort where the honours students have been involved with all decisions regarding the end product.

While a crucible is generally known as a container to melt metals or other substances under extreme heat, it also means “a situation in which people or things are severely tested, often interacting to produce something new”. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). The Crucible programme notes describe it as a process “in which purification occurs through the ordeal of fire”.

This is the basis on which Arthur Miller based his classic play which he wrote in response to Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee's crusade against supposed communist sympathisers in the United States.

Produced in 1953, The Crucible makes reference to events that took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, USA. Arthur Miller expanded this theme into a play that displays how hysteria can be produced by communities who live in fear - in this case, fear of witchcraft – and how religion can be twisted and manipulated to the point where it impacts upon itself.

Directed by Tamar Meskin, The Crucible is performed on a workable and effective set of rustic light wood on several levels set against stark branches designed by Cara Markewicz, Siobhan Schulz and Tessa Sessions.

Acting honours undeniably go to Danielle Perlman and Mark Kay for their sustained and sincere interpretations of the roles of Elizabeth and John Proctor who rise above their accusations. I also liked Brett Kyle’s Giles Corey, Sean de Klerk’s Reverend Hale and Clinton Small’s role as Arthur Miller (although he had a tendency to shout as Deputy Governor Danforth). I was also impressed by Julia Clarence as Betty Parris.

Other strong performances came from Smiley Msimang (Tituba). Kerry Holbrook (Abigail Williams), Siobhan Schulz (Mary Warren), Nj Sithole (Ezekiel Cheever) and Alvira Bezuidenhout (Rebecca Nurse). Cast members were not always completely in control of Miller’s rich and expansive text but, while the Square Space is not a demanding venue vocally, I was happy to note that good articulation and projection was evident all round.

The Crucible runs for about two and a half hours and it is a measure of the quality of the production that I remained riveted throughout. All kudos to the UKZN Drama and Performance Studies for sending out into the “real world” of professional theatre, a group of accomplished actors and actresses.

Performances take place from September 9 to 12 at 19h00 in the Square Space Theatre on the Howard College Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Limited seating available! Tickets R10 booked through Claudette Wagner (between 08h30 and 15h30 weekdays) on 031 260 3133, fax 031 260 1410 or email: wagnerc1@ukzn.ac.za – Caroline Smart




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