MEIGHAN Youth Theatre Productions celebrated its 10th anniversary with an unconventional staging of The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.

The young actors show outstanding skill and understanding of the deeper issues of a play which illustrates the darker side of human nature.

They use pregnant pauses, sinister screams and immaculate expression to convey every mood.

Modern costume is used and the lead, John Proctor, is played by a woman, Lara Hancox. I am not sure that the latter works.

The Crucible is one of the greatest plays ever written and can stand as originally intended.

Nevertheless, talented Lara throws herself into the role and her wife, Elizabeth (Tabitha Hughes) conveys gentleness and loyalty.

Proctor recognises that a group of girls have pretended to be witches and ends up sacrificing her own life ­— because she won’t admit publicly to such accusations herself.

Ignorance, superstition, hysteria, revenge and untruths still exist so the use of modern dress fits in well.

Another stand-out among the 16 to 25-year-old cast is Chris Wagstaff as the unbending Deputy Governor Danforth.

Oceana Cage, playing Tituba ­— a black girl mistrusted by her white neighbours ­— is accused of witchcraft when Betty Paris (Caroline Featherstone) goes into a trance. I liked your hysterical awakening, Caroline.

Girls who dance naked in a wood, are led by the vile Abigail Williams, the instigator of the notorious Salem Witch Trial, is played so effectively by Eve Rowan that you can almost hear her grim thoughts and see her obsession with Proctor.

The climax comes in Act 2 when mass hysteria reaches screaming point. News of arrests spread and the situation gets out of hand.

Producer/director Joe Meighan encourages his team, including the light and sound engineers,

to create a sinister atmosphere.

A stimulating experience.

* The Crucible was at the Garrick Playhouse until Saturday. Star rating: * * * * *