Photographed by Johan Persson, this stunning character portrait at right of the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage raging and wailing as John Proctor in chains is riveting and evocative in The Old Vic Theatre’s production of The Crucible that runs through September 13th.
My not having seen this production of the play gives me leave to interpret this image somewhat out of context–or at least, make an educated guess. The costume and makeup alludes to the scene being near the end of the play when John Proctor is imprisoned–not for what he has done (adultery) but for not being willing to falsely accuse his neighbors, many of whom have already been executed.
And therein lies the dilemma. Can a person live with himself for one lie–as John did for a long time before being discovered as an adulterer–but he can not live with himself for another lie (were he to make false accusations)? Or can a person be resigned to his own fated death by doing right–in John Proctor’s case, him not falsely accusing others–because in telling the truth, it makes up for him doing wrong (his adultery)?
Though John Proctor confessed his and others’ sins out of weakness in a vain attempt to save his own life–by falsely accusing the others of witchcraft and devil worship–he now denies that confession and his accusations out of strength. The heartrending wail that issues forth as John Proctor strives to convince the Village Elders sitting in judgment of the rightness of his choice–and possibly, to convince himself as well–shatters the illusion that his death is noble when his life is to be taken from him.
What does John Proctor’s death prove, but to silence Proctor’s solitary voice of truth and reason? The Village Elders need John Proctor to lie and accuse others in order to salve their own consciences of any wrong doing in the deaths of their neighbors. But as the old saying goes, “two wrongs, don’t make a right”.
And poignantly, we still hear echoing in our minds, John Proctor’s almost final words of truth (in Act four) before he is executed by hanging (right and below):
“Proctor, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
I fervently hope that Richard Armitage and The Old Vic bring The Crucible (with the full cast) to Broadway in New York City! I would be there in a heartbeat! Because as all the wonderful reviews state, this production of The Crucible is: