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Ballet Review Nothing’s lost in classic play’s translation into the physical language of ballet

Scottish Ballet
The Crucible, Edinburgh
★★★★

“Words often fail to tell us how we feel and movement can do that,” claims composer Peter Salem. Choreographer Helen Picket has chosen possibly Arthur Miller’s most powerfully emotional play for Scottish Ballet to test that theory.

Picket’s narrative ballet faithfully follows Miller’s plot dealing with the 17th-century Salem witch trials in a society trapped in its web of moral fundamentalism. Even an audience unfamiliar with the play would easily follow the action.

The music is equally programmatic, with repetitive menacing rhythms only occasionally moving into sometimes plaintive lyricism to mark the more intimate moments.

The principal dancers, Nicholas Shoesmith as John Proctor and Araminta Wraith as his wife Elizabeth, caught up in the wild accusations of a group of sexually repressed hysterical girls, capture their frustrations and feelings beyond words, while Constance Devernay as the cause celebre of the tragedy dances with a vibrant energy which sets Proctor on the road to his doom.

The desperate need of the girls, seemingly possessed by the devil, to escape the puritanical uniformity of this barren society where religion imposes an almost military discipline is captured in their wild freedom as they dance naked in the woods.

Emma Kingsbury’s simple set employs some effective shadow play but leaves the dancers and the music to create the world of Miller’s warning against tyranny which always exists.

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