If there’s one thing I like, it’s a review that leaves the reader in no uncertain terms whether the reviewer thinks they should bother to spend money or occupy space-time to experience the subject of said review. By that score, Byron Bache‘s recent review of the Melbourne Theatre Company‘s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible contains about as many certain terms as a review could want. It not only pulls no punches in its damning and thoroughly entertaining indictment, it also pulls no elbows, no Glasgow Kisses and spares the production absolutely no knees to the onions.
Here’s the teaser, just for starters:
“The Crucible is not funny. Yet the opening night audience laughed their way through all four painful acts of Melbourne Theatre Company’s take on the previously unwreckable Arthur Miller classic.“
Here Bache warns the reader that he’s not going to be Mr Nice Critic – it’s both a red flag to those of a more charitable disposition and a giant, flapping, fuck-off green neon light to those who may wish to indulge in a healthy spot of schadenfreude (if you don’t know what that means, you should probably read more theatre reviews). You might decry Bache’s early exposition but this is not meant to be a three-act play replete with dramatic tension and character development; it is instead a to-the-point one-act demolition derby featuring a monster truck and a Fiat Bambino up on blocks.
Speaking of red flags:
“The Crucible is written in a dialect — it’s right there on the page; yet Strong has the cast use their natural accents.“
Call me a perpetrator of cultural cringe (a veritable accusation of witchcraft in its own right), but unless you’re changing the setting of Crucible from the seventeenth-century English colony of Massachusetts to 2013 Brunswick, twenty-first century Strine might not be the best way to approach Miller’s carefully-constructed dialogue.
“[Director Sam Strong] executes the theme [the McCarthyist anti-Communist purges] with the all the subtlety of Animal Farm, and all the quiet elegance of a velociraptor.”
I’ll just include the above because not enough reviews compare their subjects to dinosaurs.
Bache’s contempt for this production knows no bounds and he is clearly enjoying himself as he tears director Sam Strong’s Crucible new arsehole after new arsehole as the paragraphs progress. In interviews, we invariably hear actors tell us how much they relished playing the villain; in this review Bache does not need to tell us how much he enjoys sacking and looting Sam Strong’s Salem – he shows it with graphic prose:
“Every cloud has a silver lining. And every poo has a little bit of corn you could wash off and eat if you really needed to. Here, that kernel is Anita Hegh [playing the role of Elizabeth Proctor].“
I’m positive Ms Hegh would be delighted to hear this comparison. I certainly would be.
These are the words not just of a man who feels let down by a substandard production or cheated out of three hours of his life, but of a passionate lover of art who feels utterly betrayed by one of his paramours slutting around with a wino in a cardboard box in an alley and is now wreaking a bloody and devastating revenge that would make the most psychopathic kings of Westeross raise a finger and suggest that he might just want to tone it down a bit. And I thoroughly enjoyed every blood-soaked second. I’ll be looking for more from this reviewer in the weeks to come.
Four and a half pointy reckonings.