Festival Dance, The Crucible, Edinburgh Playhouse, five stars
Between the lines of Arthur Miller’s play there is an unspoken bustle: Helen Pickett’s two-act ballet The Crucible – premiered by the Scottish Ballet this weekend – brings to the surface these turbulent currents in a choreography that goes to the bone of what will explode in Salem. Let’s start, as Pickett does, with the occasional adulterous moment that inevitably shames John Proctor (Nicholas Shoesmith) and sends Abigail (Constance Devernay) out of longing for girls into a darker state of vengeful villainy.
Devernay fully understands what Pickett reads in Abigail, revealing the unwanted orphan who longs to have a family of her own – sadly, the Proctors are not that family. When John shows a horny interest in Abigail, she only hesitates briefly before embarking on their wild mating duo. You can feel the warmth and lust in every movement. But it is Salem, and a dogmatic religious order prevails. When Reverend Parris (a vehement Thomas Edwards) prays, the whole community reflects his gestures of worship: it is faith by heart in Pickett’s picky movement.
In the woods, and what might at first have been rebellious child’s play turns into primitive abandonment. Tituba, Parris’ slave, channels his African roots with a rhythmic sinuosity that guest artist Cira Robinson (of Ballet Black) nonetheless imbues with grace and dignity. The girls join together, are discovered and suddenly the witch hunt is launched … The ‘Men of God’ will arrive, like a military intervention force, relentless and lively. The girls will scream, pass out and point accusing fingers, tasting a sudden shock of power over adults. And, in a series of exquisitely nuanced duets, John and his wife (Araminta Wraith) will rediscover their unwavering love in performances that speak superbly of fragility, forgiveness and reconciliation before brutal hypocrisy kicks in. Peter Salem’s music (performed live) has a wonderful cinematic sweep, which is reflected in the rapid scene changes on a bare stage that ensure the beat never falters. Powerful in concept and performance – a triumph for the company.
sponsored by Baillie Gifford
Constance Devernay as Abigail in The Crucible, choreographed by Helen Pickett for the Scottish Ballet
photo – Jane Hobson
Scottish Ballet in The Crucible, choreographed by Helen Pickett
photo – Jane Hobson