Teenage performers are facing a big challenge as they present one of the most powerful plays ever written.
The hysteria of the events leading up to the witchcraft trials of 17th century America inspired playwright Arthur Miller to pen The Crucible over half a century ago.
Now members of Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Youth Theatre are poised to launch their spellbinding production of the classic play,
They will present The Crucible at the town’s newest performance arts venue, The Rose Theatre, on April 23 and 24.
The theatre, which forms part of Chesterfield Studios’ complex at Rose Hill, will enable the company to present a show in a different way for the first time.
Rick Ferguson, who is assistant director to director Sheila Young, said: “As well as getting our teeth into a meaty play, we thought it would be good to learn about doing theatre in the round.”
Will Hall, 18, of Ashgate who is studying childcare education at Chesterfield College, plays the role of Frances Nurse. He has also helped direct operations, being responsible for the performers’ movements around the stage. He said: “The main character doing the monologue will stand in the middle with the other characters facing in so it is like a cauldron. The actors are peering in like the audience, which makes it more intimate.”
Fellow actor Dylan Howells said: “The play is quite a change from the comedy improvisation and upbeat productions that the youth theatre normally do.”
He plays Proctor, the play’s protagonist who is a forthright farmer. Dylan, 19, of Top Road, Calow, said: “What I like about playing Proctor is when he gets angry. I am not a particularly angry person and haven’t been known to scream at people like I do in this play.”
Dylan is currently doing an art foundation course at Chesterfield College in readiness for a course in theatre design at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. He added: “I enjoy acting but I like the creativity of theatre design.”
Sarah Kesteven plays one of the most volatile characters, Abigail Williams. She said: “Abigail is hopelessly in love with Proctor. She had an affair with him but after his wife, Elizabeth, found out, she used hysteria about witches to get her own way and kill Elizabeth for Proctor.
“She is only in two of the four acts but she flips from hysteria to fear to being hopelessly in love. I have to scream the house down, get thrown to the ground and get called a whore.
“I love the hysteria, especially in the court scenes where there a feeling of fear and elation. What is really interesting is what is unsaid, like the people giving glares across the courtroom.”
Sarah, who is 16, lives at Toad Pool Farm, Staveley, and is in the sixth form at Eckington School.
Jasmine Lewis-Henman, 16, of Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, plays Mary Warren, the servant who succeeds Abigail in the Proctor household and is a victim of his abuse. She said: “Mary is vulnerable and lonely.”
Her character is one of a group of girls who get caught in the forest dancing and conjuring up spirits. Because Mary did not participate in the woodland antics, she becomes part of the court that condemns witchcraft. She relishes the power that being in court gives her but when innocent people start to be convicted, her feelings change.
Ezekiel Cheever is among the characters who denounces Proctor’s wife for witchcraft, one of two roles played by Andrew Basson, who is on a foundation studies course at Chesterfield College. Andrew, 17, of Stand Road, Chesterfield, is also playing the role of Thomas Putnam. He said: “Putnam is a wealthy landowner, very greedy and out for land. He is taking advantage of mass hysteria.”
Matt Simmonite, 17, a pupil at Henry Fanshawe School in Dronfield, is inhabiting the character of Judge Daniforth. He said: “Daniforth is the one who drives forward the punshment and is quite harsh about it, leaving no room for second guessing. The play is really focused on character development, which I enjoy.”
The Crucible will be performed at the Rose Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday next week at 7.30pm. Tickets £8 and £6 (concessions) plus booking fee. Contact: www.chesterfieldstudios.co.uk