Saoirse and her The Crucible co-star Ben Whishaw are featured in a new editorial for this month’s Vogue issue. We have attached the new photo and interview below.
Saoirse Ronan and Ben Whishaw Bring New Dimension to The Crucible
by ADAM GREEN
If you are in the market for revelatory—and pulse-quickening—productions of plays that you thought you knew all too well, then the Belgian director Ivo van Hove is your man. On the heels of his devastating staging of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, van Hove returns to Broadway this month with his take on The Crucible, Miller’s thinly veiled allegory about the 1950s Communist witch hunts, set against the actual 1690s Salem witch hunts, featuring music by Philip Glass and an A-plus cast led by Ben Whishaw and, making her professional stage debut, Saoirse Ronan.
After an early Crucible rehearsal, I catch up with Whishaw and Ronan. Perhaps best known for his role in the BBC’s fifties-set newsroom show The Hour, the 35-year-old British actor had an action-packed fall, with roles in Spectre, The Danish Girl, and the television series London Spy. But like a lot of British actors of his generation, Whishaw got his start on the stage, with a breakout performance as Hamlet in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 production at the Old Vic, and most recently appeared in the West End’s Peter and Alice, opposite Dame Judi Dench. As it happens, he first took on the role of the flawed but morally courageous John Proctor in a school production when he was fifteen. “It’s a play that schoolchildren understand, somehow, because it’s about a microcosm, isn’t it?” says Whishaw, sporting a ploughman’s beard for the role. “And people ganging up and bullying and hysteria.” Although he went against physical type in casting the slight Whishaw—Broadway’s last John Proctor was Liam Neeson—van Hove was more interested in the actor’s ability to bring many dimensions to the character: “You feel that there’s a secret world in his mind, in his body, and you never know where he will go.”
As Abigail Williams, a vindictive seventeen-year-old who destroys lives with her false accusations, Ronan is revisiting territory she explored in her Oscar-nominated breakthrough in Atonement as Briony, a vindictive thirteen-year-old who destroys lives with her false accusations. Coming off her nuanced (and also Oscar-nominated) portrayal of an Irish immigrant torn between two suitors in Brooklyn, the 21-year-old Ronan is looking forward to “the commitment and the stamina” required by the stage. When we first meet Abigail, it’s been seven months since she was thrown out of Proctor’s house, where she had been a servant, because his wife, Elizabeth (Sophie Okonedo), discovered that they’d been having an affair. “He’d taught her everything she knows about the world, made her feel for the first time important for who she was,” Ronan says. “And I think she wants to feel powerful and needed the way she did with him.”
Adultery, sorcery, mob hysteria: van Hove, who has a gift for making plays feel both timeless and uncannily of the moment, believes that audiences will find all kinds of ways into Miller’s material: “I think this play perhaps works even better now that it can be liberated from the McCarthy era—it speaks more about ourselves these days than perhaps we’d like to admit.”