Grace Notes: A Visit to the Salem Witch Trials

Last Thursday I went to a ‘CinemaLive’ showing of ‘The Crucible’, a play by Arthur Miller. This was a recording of when it was playing in The Old Vic a few months ago, being shown in Cineworld Cinemas around the UK. I had seen this performance advertised around London in the summer, but didn’t get a chance to go and watch, so when my Mum offered me a ticket to the cinema, I jumped at the chance.

Other than the setting of the play (during the Salem witch trials) I had no idea what I was about to see. We arrived, were given a program and discovered the play was over three hours long! I was a tad hesitant, but I was totally enthralled and didn’t notice the time pass, so was surprised when it was past 11 when it ended. The cast were incredible, particularly Richard Armitage playing John Proctor and Samantha Colley playing Abigail Williams. I particularly found the possessed girls scary, because the way they were writhing around and chanting together was so unnatural.

The production had next to no colour, which added to the bleak and tragic themes of the play. Almost the whole way through, the women wore headscarves so they had a very washed out look, and their faces were pale and enhanced. The scene changes were slow and almost faded into one another. There was never a definite stop in the drama and this meant that the audience were on the edges of their seats the whole time. As this was filmed, it meant that you saw the faces of the actors close-up and you could see the madness in the girls eyes, and the grief in John Proctor’s which made it even more heart-breaking and cold.

The music was also very effective and for an audience at the cinema it was an integral way to draw us in. When it was performed in The Old Vic, there was incense burning in the auditorium throughout the play which would have encircled and drawn them into the trials. Watching a recording, we obviously didn’t have that, but I feel the music did the same job for the audience in the cinema. There was a constant bass hum through the whole play, giving the continuing feeling of unease and unnatural goings on. The music in-between the scene-changes was minimalist, mainly strings, piano and voices to help move the story on.


The ‘CinemaLive’ poster for ‘The Crucible’ (I do not own this image)

The ‘CinemaLive’ events bring theatre to people who might not have otherwise had access to it (location, time, money etc.) and give them an experience that is, in many ways, more immersive and emotional than a normal film. This is my second experience of watching a play in the cinema. Last year I saw the production of ‘Macbeth’ starring Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston as part of the Manchester International Festival, shown in cinemas by ‘National Theatre Live’. This was also amazing and brought the ‘live’ feeling of Macbeth (minus the mud and rain that was hitting the front row) to the cinema. From seeing both of these incredible productions in the cinema I have come to the conclusion that I don’t make the most out of living in London. All around me there are plays, concerts and shows being performed and I’m just sitting at home watching ‘Pointless’ (great show though it is…). In the new year, I’m going to keep on top of this wealth of live art around me and try to see more.

If you think ‘oh, but theatre isn’t my thing. I’d get bored/it’s too expensive/I don’t live in London etc’, try one of these showings and you  be begging for more.


2 thoughts on “Grace Notes: A Visit to the Salem Witch Trials

  1. jaydee09 says:

    Glad you enjoyed this as I did – both the live and screened performances. The music was wonderful and was written for the stage play and wasn’t added afterwards. It was even more effective at The Old Vic because it sometimes made the whole theatre vibrate.


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