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  • Writer's pictureJordan Anderson

Point Break Theatre Co: The Crucible - Review by Jordan Anderson

Commanding, atmospheric and gripping.  Good theatre can transport you to wildly different times and places.  For example, a large settlement in Massachusetts in the late 1600’s.  A world where tyrannical religious piety runs rampant and the lines between God, the Devil and humanity rule the world.  Or it could be that, just like in the 1950’s when Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, the themes and imagery of a ruling class playing fast and loose with peoples lives, hit a little too close to home.  Though personally, I think it’s a combination of both, an exceedingly clever script and a frightfully talented ensemble cast from Point Break Theatre Co which really helps transport you there.

                  As a very brief and basic synopsis for The Crucible, if you’re unfamiliar with it, you can boil it down to a fictionalised version of the very real and very horrible Salem Witch Trials. A group of young girls accuse other members of society of being under the spell of the Devil to stop themselves from being accused of witchcraft. To put it lightly, in a highly religious and suspicious Puritan colony, this does not go well for anyone.  This is an utter barstardisation of the plot and does nothing talk about the many political and personal plotlines that plunder the prose. But as a jumping off point, I hope it gives you some context.

I’ve seen a few of Point Break Theatre Co's shows now and one thing they do very well is an ensemble show. Giving their students a space to work with more experienced actors, but still allowing them a chance to showcase their abilities. The Crucible is a particularly good show for this as it employs a large cast and all roles clearly have their own motivations and beliefs which is truly evident in the text.  Co-Directors Blair Cutting and Paul Winchester have done an excellent job curating their cast, giving them roles to challenge them but helping them rise to meet it and guiding the, at times, nuanced story with clear ease.  This play can be incredibly confronting, quickly moving from hushed voices in small rooms to bursts of accusations and grief, but the story never felt over the top, the tensions waxed and waned with clear purpose and resolve.

The centrepoint of the show is of course Paul Winchester and Melissa Jones as John and Elizabeth Proctor and the two of them play this married couple with a well-developed chemistry, an obvious care between the two but the distrust that comes from a broken promise in a marriage.  The Proctors become the audience’s guide to the every man of the play, the emotional link to true horror of the show and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch the two of them together.  Other true highlights of the show were Stephen Allnutt as Deputy Governor Danforth, Theo Rule as Rev.  John Hale and Catherine Gilbert as Abigail Williams.  Allnutt had an incredibly strong presence on stage, commanding his righteous fury.  It was terrifying to watch him as it truly felt there was no way for him to be bested.  His control was absolute and to go against his wishes was folly.  Rule had an extremely interesting role, feeling like one of the only truly pious characters on stage and his change as he lost faith in the court proceedings was brilliant to watch.  Gilbert as Abigail was great, she perfectly encapsulated that older girl that rules the gang, sweet as could be in front of the adults, but ruling her minions with an iron fist.  You could see the cogs ticking in her brain, perfectly working out how best to turn the situation to her own favour.

As an ensemble cast, I can’t possibly talk about everyone on stage, but everyone truly gave this show their all.  Actors such as Oliver Harcourt as Rev. John Parris, Penny Day as Rebecca Nurse, Amelie Stone as Mary Warren and Branko Dÿstra as Giles encapsulated their characters exceedingly well and really helped shape the diversity of the town and how these trials divided the settlement.  Even smaller characters such as Owen Frost as Ezekiel Cheever, Aska Karem as Tituba and Samuel Jeffries came out with such personality and attitude that really showcased the obvious work that went into crafting this story and social hierarchy.

I’m such a fan of Point Break Theatre Co. and I always know when I go to see one of their shows that I’m in for a treat.  I would love to see more done in terms of set for some of their shows, but I understand that as a Drama School their main focus is on the quality of the acting, which they do such great work and that more than makes up for it.  As another certified hit for them I give this beautiful piece of Theatre 4 glasses of Apple Cider.

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