The Crucible: Arthur Miller

The Crucible: Arthur Miller

★★★★★

(Old Vic Theatre, London, 21 June-13 September 2014)

Arthur Miller’s 1953 play about suspicion, accusation and popular hysteria has just opened at the Old Vic and, on the basis of the preview performance I saw last night, it may well be the most powerful and intense piece of theatre in London this year. The director Yaël Farber has stripped the play back to its essentials and the action unfolds in a claustrophobic, twilight world clouded with smoke and struck through with shafts of bright light.

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Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare

★★★

(directed by Mark Rylance, The Old Vic, London, until 30 November)

Much Ado About Nothing is the closest that Shakespeare came to writing a screwball comedy and I love it dearly, mainly for the barbed word-play. I’ve seen several versions (my favourite is still the sun-drenched Kenneth Branagh film) and I was very interested by the idea behind Mark Rylance’s new adaptation at the Old Vic. Here Beatrice and Benedick are played respectively by Vanessa Redgrave (76) and James Earl Jones (82): two older people who, after watching their young friends fall in love, are finally persuaded to end their age-old skirmishing and embrace their affection for one another before it’s too late. I thought it was a marvellous take on the play – but unfortunately the production doesn’t live up to the brilliance of this concept. It was rather disappointing because, with such a director and such actors, it should have been a cast-iron success.

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