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Pressurizing the Politics of The Crucible: a Brechtian Production of Arthur Miller’s Modern Classic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2019


In this article David Barnett documents a practice-as-research project that employed Brechtian approaches to stage dramatic material. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a realist text in which the protagonist, John Proctor, redeems himself for the sin of adultery by taking a heroic stand against the Salem witch-hunts. Existing scholarship has revealed a series of gendered biases in the form and content of the play, yet these findings have never been systematically realized in performance. While appearing to defend democratic values, the play’s dramaturgical strategies coerce agreement, and this represents a fundamental contradiction. Brecht offers a method that preserves the written dialogue, but interprets it critically onstage, deploying a range of devices derived from a materialist and dialectical interpretation. The aim of the production was to re-present a play with a familiar production history and problematize the political bases on which it conventionally rested. The article discusses the rationale for the theory and practice of contemporary Brechtian theatre and offers the production as a model for future critical realizations of other realist plays. David Barnett is Professor of Theatre at the University of York. His publications include A History of the Berliner Ensemble (CUP, 2015), Brecht in Practice: Theatre, Theory and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2014), amd Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the German Theatre (CUP, 2005).

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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