It’s a powerful attack of the McCarthy persecutions of alleged communist sympathisers which swept through America in the 1950’s and a warning today of the dangers of religious fundamentalism.

Designer Soutra Gilmour hides the auditorium’s ornate architecture behind soot-smirched grey and there’s a smoky intensity to this starkly staged production which sets it firmly in earlier times, late 17th century Salem, Massachusetts to be precise, where, in 1692, mass hysteria took hold and women and young girls were accused of witchcraft. Incarceration and (for some of those who refused to confess) death followed.

Making her professional stage debut, Samantha Colley is a passionate, devious Abigail, a young woman scorned who takes full advantage of the frenzy sweeping through her rural community to destroy Richard Armitage’s virile John Proctor, a basically decent farmer who now bitterly regrets his past infidelity. And Anna Madeley is deeply touching as his controlled, hurt wife who, only at the last, can finally find it in herself to truly forgive him. There’s fine support, too, from Adrian Schiller’s Reverend Hale as he realises that reason has flown out the window with the wild, synchronised swishing of the accusing girls’ loose, long hair, and from Jack Ellis’s unbending Deputy Governor.

Farber doesn’t rush things – but don’t let a running time of three and half hours deter you from catching this engrossing, atmospheric production of an American classic.

When: Until September 13

Where: Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 8NB

Tickets cost £10.00 – £55.00. Click here to book