NOTE: Spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers.
In July 2014 I travelled to London just to go see The Crucible in The Old Vic. When I purchased the ticket and booked my flight it felt like a terribly selfish thing to do, but I had plenty of time to suppress that feeling and in the end I was - and am - so so glad I went. It was worth every penny and every minute spent.
As many of you know, some of the last performances were filmed and made into a downloadable production by Digital Theatre. This downloadable version was released some weeks ago. I heard that among certain groups of people the world stood still for 3 hours and 19 minutes just after the release, although in my world it was business as usual for a while longer. Until yesterday, to be precise. I am on my Easter vacation, and last night I sat down with my mother and my niece to watch it again.
Of course it was nothing like being there. But the play still shattered me and made me want to scream at the scheming and injustice. I hate it when bad guys get their way. And the bad guys of Salem are so... bad!
I don't mean bad as in bad ass, obviously. It's just that everybody has their own lowly reasons to wish for the wrong things to happen. There's reverend Parris who thinks so highly of himself and wants to keep his position in the village at any cost. Mister Putnam who sees the convenience in his neighbours being hanged or charged with witchcraft because then they'll forfeit their land so that he can buy it cheap. The bitter and jealous mrs. Putnam who has lost seven babies and accuses a mother of eleven healthy children of murdering hers. The tailor who finds himself a magistrate of the court and suddenly has power over people who would normally be so far above him. The deputy governor Danforth who has already sentenced hundreds of people to death and who cannot admit to being wrong because it would undermine everything he has said and done before. And of course Abigail, the young girl who has got her first taste of love and sex and who wants more so badly she is willing to ruin her village to try and get it.
The main difference between seeing this version and actually being in the theatre was that I could not choose where to look. Obviously the cameras were pointed to where the action was. And that means I noticed things I hadn't noticed as I sat frozen in my seat over in London, like the subtle changes in Abigail's facial expressions whenever she was at risk of being exposed as a fraud. It also means I missed the interactions between the people who were on stage but didn't have any lines just then. I particularly remember a scene in the final act where the two elderly men - Giles Corey and Francis Nurse - were sitting next to each other on two chairs, after their plan with the deposition had failed. Francis Nurse was rocking himself and mumbling prayers, while Giles sat heavily and took a sip from his flask. Two very different men, yet with so much sympathy towards each other.
I must say, even though the experience of watching the Digital Theatre version was so different from being in the theatre on the front row, it took me right back. I remembered the chilled feeling of despair that came over me in the final act, when the flakes of ash fell silently over Tituba and Sarah Good in their cell. In The Old Vic the ash fell over me, too; I found several flakes of it (thin, crumpled, black bits of plastic) in my bra and my hair when I came back to the appartment that night.
And I cried in front of the tv screen last night, too. I cried less than in the theatre, where Adrian Schiller / Reverend Hale stepped out of character for a split second to pat me reassuringly on the shoulder, but the tears I shed in my parents' living room were as hot and bitter as they were there.
Yes, I cry a lot when I watch movies; I am very easily touched. But I dare you to watch this one without shedding a tear!