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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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

★★★

(directed by Peter Jackson, 2013)

With Christmas hovering on the horizon, it’s once again time for a trip into Middle Earth and, since I wrote in some detail about the first instalment of The Hobbit, I don’t think I need to do too much scene-setting here. We rejoin Bilbo, Thorin and their companions exactly where we left them: on the far side of the Misty Mountains, finally within sight of the Lonely Mountain, with a warg pack on their trail. A breathless cross-country chase takes them to temporary shelter in the cottage of the skinchanger Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) and then into the forest of Mirkwood, to the realm of the elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace, on imperious form). Beyond Mirkwood lies Laketown, the final settlement before the Lonely Mountain; and then there is only the mountain itself to challenge them, as they seek the hidden door that will lead them into Smaug’s domain.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

★★★½

(directed by Peter Jackson, 2012)

On a chilly evening last Sunday in Leicester Square, waiting for the doors of the Odeon to open, I found it hard to believe that eleven years have passed since The Fellowship of the Ring came out. A fair amount has happened in those years, but in this moment they ceased to exist: the prospect of spending an evening in Peter Jackson’s version of Middle Earth made me feel as if I were sixteen years old all over again.

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