A play sold by a certain celebrity name, but whose excellence derived from the absolute quality of the ensemble, direction, choreography and set. Yael Farber has been a favourite director of mine since Mies Julie and she didn’t disappoint in taking on Arthur Miller’s essential text. She has the knack of creating painfully emotional drama with a kind of raw but epically beautiful intensity. In particular, she gives classics the modern edge they need to speak to audiences today.
The Old Vic works brilliantly in the round and came into its own in the court scenes, when I began to feel uncomfortably implicated, as though the audience had become an extension of the jury. The emotional pain of experiencing Abigail’s betrayal was riveting. Samantha Colley handled the part with pernicious strength and uncertain vulnerability.
Wonderful movement direction from Imogen Knight, particularly between scenes as the cast spun on with chairs, tied the piece together with a unceasing, undulating rhythm. Knight’s signature was clear having seen Red Velvet at the Tricycle.
Soutra Gilmour, whose praises I sung last year for the ingenious Strange Interlude set at the National Theatre, created a palette of midnight blacks, rustic browns and neutral greys with ultramarine blue and straw lighting – it felt rural and of its time and yet starkly modern at the same time.
Utterly and exactly what a fantastic ensemble of both actors and creatives can together create. Rhetoric and persuasion, pretension and innocence, fiercely ignite in this battle of morality, love and loyalty.
Until 13 September at The Old Vic and to be released by Digital Theatre.