Tension was building in Sheffield’s Crucible this week as ‘The Crucible’ brought its haunting recollection of witchcraft and sacrilege to the famous Sheffield stage. ‘The Crucible’ haunts with it’s operatic take on the classic Arthur Miller story which is based on the famous 1692 and 1693 Salem witch trails. Bringing a fresh perspective on the story with a very solemn and creative set design, director Anthony Lau (The Good Person Of Szechwan, Miss Saigon) does an impressive job of tackling the daunting proposition of recreating Miller’s classic and revered work. First performed in New York in 1953, the tale revolves around the accusations and persecutions of several people who were accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts. Based on the recollections of a group of young girls, the story explores the accusations, the circumstances around them and the horrific consequences.

Split into shorter acts, this whopping three-hour production is a real slow burner through the minds, fears and worries of the residents of Salem during this horrific period of history. The show does a fantastic job of spending time with each character and really diving deeply into their psyche and state of mind and this really helps to up the stakes as the play drives forwards. There is plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience on their feet but perhaps the strongest part of this recreation of such a sacred story is the outstanding and impassioned cast performances.

Fantastic character performances are delivered by Rose Shalloo (A Christmas Carol, Holby City) and Ian Drysdale (The Diplomat, The Bill) in particular, who play Abigail Williams and Danforth respectively. Shalloo encapsulates and embodies the character of Abigail Williams and is incredibly convincing in her portrayal of one of the several young accusers. Her menacing and frightening performance culminates in some really impressive scenes in the courtroom that really feel like the heart and soul of the entire production. The passion and the energy put into these performances, from Shalloo and others, really is captivating and helps to keep the audience engaged during such a long show length. Drysdale, however, offers a different kind of performance for a very different kind of character. His stern, cold and authoritative portrayal of Danforth really serves to highlight the cold, harsh nature of the trails and the fates of many of the accused. His scenes with the fantastic Simon Manyonda (John Proctor) are a particular highlight.

The tension builds and builds until it reaches breaking points throughout the production. The use of operatic song and chanting really serves to punctuate the gothic, unsettling nature of the story and adds a fresh flavour to the performance. There is minimal props and stage production and this really contributes to the sparse, stark and lonely nature of the story being told. However, there is a particularly creative use of microphones and electricity that act as really theatrical and unique touches that helps to build on the sense of tension and uneasiness that abounds throughout the show.

If you’re new to this story or are simply looking for a thrilling tense journey through such a horrific moment in history, make sure you don’t miss ‘The Crucible’ at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre from Saturday 2nd March to Saturday 30th March.