Drawing: Richard Armitage and Sam Colley in The Crucible at The Old Vic Theatre

The Crucible Richard Armitage Sam Colley

Arthur Miller’s harrowing 1953 witch hunt classic The Crucible played London’s Old Vic Theatre this summer and was one of 2014’s hottest tickets. Directed by the multi-award-winning South African Yaël Farber, the three and a half hour production had critics spellbound, describing it as, “absorbing”, “it is what great theatre is all about”, “unmissable”, “a production of electrifying intensity”.

Based on the 17th century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts (which the playwright uses as an allegory for McCarthyism in the 1950s) the play’s main protagonist is bewildered John Procter, a down to earth farmer played by Richard Armitage in what has been called, “an expressive turn, full of raw power”.

Making her professional stage debut as the antagonist ringleader Abigail Williams was a memorably sinister Samantha Colley. Charismatic and manipulative, she spreads rumours of witchcraft after a brief affair with John Procter, eventually accusing his wife of being “bewitched”.

This pencil sketch is a montage of Richard and Sam’s characters in the play which they both kindly signed.

Drawing: Richard Armitage in The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre

Richard Armitage

Maybe it was because he’s Robin Hood on the telly, or more lily because he is Thorin Oakenshield in Perter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy that accounted for the hoards of people – mostly female – that became part of the nightly vigil to meet Richard Armitage outside the Old Vic stage door in London during its recent season of The Crucible.

At the heart of Arthur Miller’s tale of religious hysteria in the Salem Witch trials of 1692 was an immense performance as John Proctor from Richard. Apparently his first stage part was playing an elf in a production of The Hobbit at the Alex Theatre in Birmingham. His appearance certainly created some offstage hysteria as well.

Once again I left it to the final week to try and get a sketch signed, with the excepted consequences. Actually, as a back up I did leave one a couple of months earlier at the theatre, but it hadn’t appeared through the mail box by the time the last few days rolled around. This sketch was a quick one of Richard and Samantha Colley in rehearsal.

At three and a  half hours The Crucible‘s Finish time was 11pm, giving a small window of opportunity before the last train home. The line stretched along the entire side wall of the Old Vic, from stage door to front door. I was positioned three quarters down it with tales of woe by ardent ‘Armitagees’ that he doesn’t always complete the line. This night he did, but very quickly. To accommodate everyone’s demands he used the abbreviated initials ‘RA’ not the full version. ‘RA’ with a tail and lower case ‘g’ slipped near the end like an abandoned hair clip. Still, he quickly graphed my drawing and moved on.