The Crucible on Screen – Sort of a Review

Sometimes it pays to be living on this little island on the fringes of Europe. I am usually quite possessive of my adopted home, and like my hosts I react rather offended when Ireland gets thrown in with the UK. No, we are not part of the Commonwealth. No, we do not use Pounds as our currency. And no, the Queen is not our head of state! But when it came to the screening of The Crucible in cinemas, I was quite happy for Ireland to be lumped with Britain: The Crucible on Screen debuted last night. And Guylty was there to relive her “summer of love”. In the absence of any (known) fellow Irish fans, the companion of choice was Mr Guylty. I’ll be honest. He had been rather hesitant dismissive when I initially requested his company for the screening. But I insisted that I wanted to share with him what had had me so enthralled in the summer, and he finally relented.

Despite the proximity to Britain, the one and only Dublin cinema TC was screened in was half-empty.photo 1 (2) The news of the summer’s best West End play had obviously not crossed the Irish Sea, otherwise the theatre-loving Dublin audience should’ve flocked to the cinema. Mind you, I think Armitage’s army was well represented there, judging by the number of *groups* of women. Fans? Check. I overheard a vintage mature lady in the row behind me telling her companion she had seen the play in London. Fan? Check. Oh, and that group of German women, giggling when the shirt came off? Fans? Check, you bet!!!! Mr Guylty’s eyebrows had moved all the way up into his hairline – I could see feel that, even in the dark…

But to jump to the conclusion right at the beginning: Mr Guylty fully approved of the play, minus a few details which I incidentally have to agree with. But I’ll get to that in due course. As a precursor let me also add that this post will not be a review of the play as such. I have already reviewed it at length ad infinitum after seeing the play for the first and the second time. I think we can establish that the play was a triumph. But how does it translate to a recorded version, shown on the big screen?

 

There you are – if you don’t want to read through all of my garbled comments on the screen version of TC, you can leave the post here.

Oh, you are still with me. Ok, well, this is the long version then. As a reward I’ll make this more conversational than my previous reviews and simply list all the things that stood out for me, good or bad.

The Opening

The Crucible on Screen opens with an angle previously unseen: a view of the empty stage, seen from straight above. Much like what theatre goers saw when they walked into the Old Vic to attend the play in person, the chairs are haphazardly arranged on the otherwise empty stage. In the Old Vic that was a very powerful opening – an empty, backlit stage with scattered chairs – some upright, some fallen – which was slowly populated with the characters who assume position. Inventive – I loved seeing the stage from an angle that you cannot see it from in the theatre. Unfortunately this was the only time this angle was used. Which seemed a bit of a waste. I would have loved to see the mad chase of Abby and Proctor around the stage from above, or the falling ashes slowly sailing down from above. In the screen version, the camera angle then changes down to the audience as soon as the characters enter the stage. We get our first look at the characters, until the camera singles out Proctor who was the last character to remain on stage.

Then the action begins as Tituba’s silhouette walks backlit onto the stage, holding a steaming crucible. When this scene happened, I could have sworn that I smelt the herbal incense that had been used in the Old Vic to set the mood. I literally sat in the cinema wondering whether Robert Delamere and Co. had *not* been kidding when they were talking about Sniff-o-rama theatre. I even looked around whether anyone else was having the same sensation, or whether there was someone in the aisles waving some incense sticks around. I had a similar sensation later on when Elizabeth Proctor was stirring the stew. Put it down to some vivid imagination on my part.

The Lighting

photo 3 (2)While I had already appreciated the lighting in the stage version of TC, I felt it really came into its own in the screen version. The camera translated backlighting into deep black silhouettes, created sharp shafts of light in the incense-filled air (a device frequently used in photography to create a softer, moodier atmosphere), illuminated faces warmly with the light of a single candle, using shadow to characterise some of the characters on stage. The change between darkness and light set the scenes for the various locations in the play, and the audience stayed mostly hidden in the shadow.

In act 1 I was briefly annoyed because Proctor’s eyes were hidden in strong shadow that was created by strong light from above him. Surely Armitage couldn’t have a Neanderthal brow bulge that would only cause this problem for him? Until I noticed that none of the other characters suffered the same problem. Hence I decided it was deliberate – Digital Theatre couldn’t have overlooked that, could they? Maybe it was meant as a characterisation – in act 1 Proctor is still a bit of a shady character, volatile, faulty, an adulterer.

The Music

What a surprise the music was for me. While I was decidedly nonplussed by the use of music in the stage version, I really felt it added greatly to the screen version. No doubt much of that is due to me being conditioned to react to a soundtrack in the surroundings of a cinema. Watching a film, one expects music to set the mood, to add another layer and to underscore the action. Hammarton’s music did so beautifully. And with Dolby Surround Sound I actually felt what Armitage had recently described in an interview – that the music was designed to succinctly vibrate the seats of the audience and literally “shake them”. It really enhanced the experience for me here. But I stand by my verdict for the stage version – unnecessary mumbo-jumbo. Sorry.

The Scene Changes

Now here is finally some criticism. I did not like how DT dealt with the transitions between the acts. The first scene change occurs right after the opening tableau vivante when the girls carry in Betty Parris’s bed, Rev. Parris’s table and chair are set up, and the trap door on the stage is opened to act as a staircase. In the theatre this was beautiful to watch, as it was carefully choreographed and aesthetically executed. For the screen these scene changes were slowed down and edited to overlap and melt into each other. For me the transitions took unnecessarily long. In fact, they bored me. What is interesting on stage – since it is also a necessity – became a chore on screen where scene changes could theoretically be completely cut. Leaving them out would have been a shame as they were beautiful – but why draw them out so long and digitally change them? They were fine as they were – the dreamlike slo-mo really got on my nerves.

The Distractions

Mic Cables. They were really quite visible, but only on Proctor. And not because I honed in on him. I strained to see them on the other actors. But they were fully clothed at any point in the play. The mics were hidden in headdresses and turtleneck sweaters. With Proctor’s loose tunic that was not so easily done. To be fair, I think DT did their best to avoid angles where the cables were visible. But occasionally they were there – and a bit distracting.- Mr Guylty also found the “shirtless scene” distracting. Well, he used the word “gratuitous”. I pointed out to him that it wasn’t at all, but he didn’t really believe my reasoning. Hmph. I think he was extra critical for ulterior reasons.

The Direction

photo 2 (2)In some respects the screened version of TC did not really correspond with what I had seen in the theatre. Of course there are always minor changes – a different gesture here, a stronger kiss there, more or less tears. Probably depends on the individual actor and the day that’s in it. But what slightly put me (and particularly Mr Guylty) off was the amount of shouting. I remember this very clearly because it was a sensitive point that had been raised before I watched TC for the first time. Early reviewers had mentioned that a lot of shouting was going on – something that I found untrue when I attended the play myself. However, with Yael Farber re-focussing the cast before the recording, the shouting seems to have made a comeback. There were very few scenes where Proctor did *not* shout. I didn’t appreciate that at all. For starters, Armitage’s voice clearly shows the strain of many weeks’ acting. Secondly – sorry, can’t help it, but I find shouting a rather cheap way of attracting attention.

And that was so not necessary here. Because what the screen version excels at is the close-up of the characters. As appreciators of the Armitage art of micro-acting, this really played into our hands. It was extraordinary to watch Proctor’s feelings emanate from his eyes, his brows,his face. Even from the front row you wouldn’t have seen this. Tears sparkling in his eyes. Muscles flexing. The veins pulsing in his neck. Fear and fury in the actors’ eyes. It added a whole new perspective.

And hence I agree with Robert Delamere – screened theatre is an art form of its own. It is a hybrid of film and theatre, and it combines the best of both into a multi-layered theatrical experience that hits right at the centre of your emotions. It engages your senses and holds you transfixed in your seats. The only thing it can’t replicate is the feeling of involvement that the audience felt in the theatre. The screen ultimately remains a filter and a insurmountable boundary between reality and fiction. But if you can’t have the play, then the screened version is the next best thing!

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37 thoughts on “The Crucible on Screen – Sort of a Review

  1. Und damit hat sich meine Anfrage von heute morgen ja erledigt 🙂
    So viele freie Plätze im Kino! Schande, das!!!!!
    Und was für eine absurde Einlassung deines Gatten, die Waschszene sei überflüssig. So was aber auch, immer diese Realisten. Bloss keinen Schnickschnack und kein Chichi. 😀 Mensch, früher wurde sich zwar nicht so häufig gewaschen, aber es war auch nicht unüblich. Sach ihm das. So!
    😀
    Das mit dem Geschrei war ja schon ein wenig im Trailer zu spüren. Wie gesagt, ich fand es ja Anfang Juli auch ein wenig forciert an manchen Stellen. Und die Kabelei ist tatsächlich eine arge Herausforderung. Das fiel mir bei Frankenstein auf. In der Version mit BC als Creatur habe ich die ganze Zeit auf seine sich hinterm Ohr lösende Glatze gestarrt. War halt blöd, da er sich sein kostbares Haupthaar nicht hat scheren lassen. JLM hatte es mit seiner Naturglatze da leichter. Insgesamt fand ich in den Nahaufnahmen oft die Körperflüssigleiten doch seeeehr prominent. War das gestern auch der Fall? Im Theater ist man dem ja i.d.R. nicht soooo ausgesetzt, ausser in den ersten Reihen und bei gewollter Publikumsbeschimpfung 😀

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    • LOL – ich hab ihm sehr deutlich und logisch dargelegt, warum die Waschszene keineswegs der sexuellen Stimulation des weiblichen Publikums diente. Er meinte dann aber, die Tatsache, dass ich das so präzise und stringent ausformuliert parat hätte, sei ja schon die Widerlegung meiner eigenen Theorie. Hmph.
      Die Schreierei fand ich wirklich der Sache abträglich. War im August wirklich nicht in jeder von mir gesehenen Vorstellung so laut. Ich denke ja sogar, dass die Bedrohung eines wütenden Proctors in drohendem Tonfall noch viel effektiver ausgedrückt werden könnte als in erhobener Stimme… Aber ich bin ja nicht Frau Farber.
      Lol – die sich lösende Glatze von BC – das dürfte tatsächlich ablenkend wirken. Mich hat das Kabel ja schon irritiert…
      Ach so, Spuckerei – ich kann hier mit alle interessierten Damen beruhigen – nein, RA hatte seine Körperflüssigkeiten (soweit sichtbar) alle sehr gut unter Kontrolle. Was nun in der Unterhose los war… ok, lassen wir das… Aber nein, da flog nichts, da sabberte nichts (außer dem Publikum), und alles war extrem ästhetisch. Nur Rev Parris hat gleich schon in einer der ersten Szenen mal so richtig gerotzt. Das kam bei der Beleuchtung auch besonders schön zur Geltung. Ähem.

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      • Gut, dann bin ich ja froh. Richtig traumatisiert hat mich ja garnicht so sehr der BC (den ich ja seit Montag nochmal in einem gaaaaanz anderen Licht sehe 😉 ), sondern die Dame, die Medea performt hat. DAS war Gerotze auf allerhöchstem Niveau. Dagegen waren auch die Schweisströme von J.L.Miller nur ein Klacks.
        Und ja, wir Frauen entlarven uns immer mit diesen äusserst detailgenauen Erklärungen (Rechtfertigungen?) 😀 Kerle behaupten einfach nur. Punkt. Oder erklären eben nichts.

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        • Ich finde, bei dem Gerotze sieht man immer, wer nun wirklich Theaterschauspieler ist, und wer nicht. Die Profis lassen sich davon überhaupt nicht aus der Ruhe bringen. Die Amateure zucken zusammen.
          Entlarven ist richtig. Rechtfertigung auch. Und immer so vorauseilend. Weil man als Frau ja auch nie die Klappe halten kann. Herr, gebäre mich als Mann wieder.

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          • Ich ärgere mich auch immer tot, wenn ich mal wieder in so eine Rechtfertigungsfalle tappe. Hätte man mal besser die Klappe gehalten. Naja….
            Ach und wenn du dann mal als Mann wiederaufstehst, melde dich bei mir. Vielleicht wirds dann ja was mit uns beiden 😉

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              • Bin echt froh, dass du mich nicht wegen unziemlicher Anmache des Blogs verweist 🙂 Natürlich sollte brainmässig alles beim Alten bleiben, wenn es geschlechtsspezifisch erfolgreich umgewandelt wurde. Ansonsten würde ich unsere Beziehung sehr gerne weiter ausschliesslich platonisch weiterführen (wenn’s Recht wäre!). 🙂

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        • you can relax 🙂 echt genau davor hatte ich Angst! Mich hat das screening from Frankenstein total frustriert! Und ich habe die andere Version gesehen, aber das Ding auf JML Kopf sah wie ein totes Tier aus, und die Schwitz- und Sabbermeere bei beiden.. meine Gute! Wieso muss die Kamara da ganz sooo nahe dran! Und sich anderndes Make up, Mikros die standig bom bom bom machen weil sie beruhrt werden. Irgendjemand war da extrem schlampig bei der Arbeit und hat sehr wenig geplant, schade, Hier ist sowas uberhaupt nicht der Fall! Es gibt ja kein ubles Make up, keine toten Perucken, die Schwitzerei ist auf ein Minimum reduziert, keiner spuckt, es ist ein wahres Wunder! Ich habe ja x Mal Oper im Kino gesehen und auf Spuke und Schweiss reagiere ich gar nicht mehr, ist halt so und bei Nahaufnahmen kommt es ruber, darauf war ich sogar vorbereitet um dann zu meinem Erstaunen nichts davon vorzufinden! Luxus! Mich hat auch vor Ort die Rotze von Proctor im letzten Akt nie gestort, aber auch da haben sie eine Variante gefunden wo es nicht da ist und es nur beruhrend aussieht. Alle sehen standig nur schon aus, aber naturlich. Uberhaupt kein Vergleich mit dem Frankenstein (und dabei meine ich nicht das Werk sondern nur die Art und Weise wie es aufegnommen wurde, denn vor Ort am Tag sah man im NT auch vn der 1 Reihe nict so viel Schweiss oder die Ecken der Glatze, usw, Idiot derjenige der sowas dann auf der Leinwand in gross zeigt…). .

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      • Hast du versucht, Mr. Guylty zu erklären, dass die Wichtig-oder-überflüssig-Diskussion im Fandom in Länge und Breite durchgekaut worden ist?

        Ich fürchte allerdings, dass er dir trotzdem nicht geglaubt hätte. Männer! Keine Ahnung von Kunst. *gg*

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  2. Thanks for being our eyes and ears for this production. Mr. Guylty is such a good sport. He deserves his own disco ball award to go with his sainthood. So, to sum up, despite the shouting, you found the production the next best thing to attending the play. High praise, I hope to see it when comes to the states. Whenever that may be.

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    • Oh, Mr Guylty is a total saint alright. (You have no idea how frustrating it is to live with a saint. Makes me even more the imp that I am…)
      I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be brought to cinemas in the States – at some point. I think it will suffer a little bit if it is confined to the small screen of the computer. But well, that would be the next best thing to the next best thing…

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    • *ggg* It must be really weird (well, infuriating) for you guys in the States, being excluded from this experience. Not to gloat or belittle it – but it is a regular occurrence for us non-US people. The amount of times that stuff is not available in teeny tiny little Ireland… frustrating does not even cover it!!!

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        • I’ve started to hope having seen it now on screen that the sheer beauty of it and impact might actually persuade some of those who have said no before to say yes, who knows, I hope at least the video downloads will encounter no barriers whatsoever! wishing for all of you to be able to see it!!

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          • I’m THISCLOSE to completely boycotting it over this reason. My computer has a crappy itty-bitty screen and serious download issues, not to mention a crappy video card. Not to mention my vision issues. (I am now writing in a 14 font. The more I read how wonderful it is live and how wonderful it is on the Big Screen, the pissier I get.

            But I’m happy for everyone else. I’m blaming hormones. Or lack of them.

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  3. Den Patzer verzeiht sie mir nie … 😦

    Ansonsten: *seufz* Ob es in einem Kino irgendwo halbwegs in meiner Nähe gezeigt wird?

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  4. Thanks Guylty! I appreciate your detailed description of the theatre version of TC. I’m encouraged to hear you thought it was worthy. I don’t think it’s possible to love every single thing so I appreciate the balanced view. Kudos to Mr Guylty for going with you 🙂

    I really, really wish they would release it to some theaters in the US. I hope they do release the digital download here. It won’t be as good as a theater but after everything I have heard I want to see it in any form possible.

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    • I can’t believe that they would exclude you from the digital download. They would be neglecting a huge market. It may just take a little time.
      And yes, it is well-worth seeing. The play comes across really well on the screen. Mr Guylty had no trouble following it and understanding that it was really quite an outstanding play. Modern technology is great!

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  5. Happy to read your impressions and largely similar to mine, so i wasn’t making things up in my mind 😉 (always a possibility when i am afraid i’ll hate something and really really want to like it ;-)) It’s more than likeable! I liked the slo-mo transitions but kept wondering hat in earth actually made it longer in the cinema than in the theatre as interval was shorter. It didn’t feel at all longer in fact it flew past just like in the theatre, but it was longer on the clock. Riveting to see how captivated people in the cinema were really.
    I had the same issue with the shouting 😦 i wasn’t expecting that although i should have i guess, they had been louder at the beginning of the run, but i think the body mics add to the volume (it’s a never ending bone of contention in the opera broadcasts in cinema where people always complain, rightly so, that subtlety and piani are lost. I think unfortunately it’s a situation where if it is live for the theatre audience but a mic at ear level captures the sound from the mouth it will be very hard for it to be equally soft as it may come across in the hall. Or the extra sound processing would be extremely laborious and would sound unnatural? ) Anyways it;s probably more frustrating to us just because it was one of the very few complaints raised with the production in reviews and by the public sometimes,
    However! although it is overall louder than expected it’s less loud than it was in some parts, dynamically evened out towards loud i’d say. Proctor speaks very softly in the first part of act 2 and that is not quite so in cinema, but when he roars in act 3 in situ i got the fright of my life! It’s not quite a mind numbing in the cinema due to the fact that he just can’t cross the screen and shout directly at you as he did on stage 😉
    Not sure i mentioned this in my blabla but i thought the 3rd act translated wonderfully, i finally got to see on Proctor’s face things that i missed in the hall and that always left me feeling like this 3rd act was a bit weaker maybe? No such thing on screen for me as i could follow him much more closely.

    Glad hubby enjoyed it :-))) Also glad he is not a mind reader, especially not across borders :-p I had my thoughts ‘ggg’ Not particularly/only at the wash scene…

    It was truly emotional and it took me on a very similar journey so i agree it is a very good realisation of the theatre version. Much to enjoy for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet 🙂

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  6. Thanks Guylty, I’m glad you enjoyed it and can compare the differences between real theatre and cinema. That may be to some advantage should you see other productions in the cinema instead of live, you will be able to get an idea of what the live version would have been like thorough past experience and be able to imagine that in the cinema, it’ll give you a feel for both I think.
    We have to wait until Boxing Day in Aus’ for the release of BoTFA so cod knows how long we’ll have to wait for the digital release of The Crucible, I’m assuming we’ll get it but it seems like forever since the end of the plays real run in Sept’, reading everyone’s experiences is great but I can’t help but feel a little sad sometimes and impatient ;o) xx.

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  7. I guess after last summer it was all over but the shouting. Ba-da-bing! But truly, I am anxious for a chance to watch this and soak up what I can of the original excitement. To say nothing of the shirtless scene!

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