Anna Ryder on The Good John Proctor at Jermyn Street Theatre

Promotional image of two girls screaming

Talene Monahon’s The Good John Proctor, which officially opens Jermyn Street Theatre’s third Footprints Festival this evening, acts as something of a prequel to Arthur Miller’s modern classic The Crucible. It’s one year before the witch trials begin and explores the inner lives of the girls at the centre of the trial.

This UK premiere is directed by Jermyn Street Theatre’s 2023 Carne Deputy Director Anna Ryder and features Sabrina Wu as Betty Parris, Anna Fordham as Abigail Williams, Amber Sylvia Edwards as Mercy Lewis and Lydia Larson as Mary Warren. The production is the first of six new works that will be presented by rising theatre talent during the month-long festival.

Ahead of opening night, we caught up with Ryder to discuss the background to the play, how she has approached the production and what it’s like to be part of the festival.

Q&A with Anna Ryder

What can you tell us about The Good John Proctor?

The Good John Proctor is a new play set in Salem 1691, the year leading up to the Witch Trials. The writer, Talene Monahon, shifts the focus onto the inner lives and experiences of the children at the heart of the trials. She invites us to imagine these events anew. The play is witty, spooky and thought provoking. We have a brilliant cast who have brought great empathy and humour to the world of 17th Century, New England girlhood.

How aware were you of The Crucible before coming into this production?

Like a lot of people, I read The Crucible when I was at school and this play is very much in conversation with The Crucible. It’s interesting that The Crucible has become the foundation for most people’s knowledge of these events even though it is a fiction. In researching for this show, I’ve found the real life details to be even more complicated, knotty and unknowable than I first thought.

Anna Fordham and Sabrina Wu in The Good John Proctor at Jermyn Street Theatre. Photo: Jack Sain

How have you approached the production?

This play asks adult actors to embody child characters. We worked on finding the playfulness and free physicality of being a child, while still treating the stakes and experiences of these characters as real and important. The script is nimble and always moving, so it was important to stage the scenes in a way that kept driving forwards.

Do you see parallels between the story in 1691 and today?

I think we naturally draw comparisons between our contemporary lives and stories of the past. These characters are based on real people and how they behaved is as much to do with them being humans as it is to do with the circumstances of their lives and society. Sometimes the costume and language of period dramas, can let an audience sit back and keep the characters at a distance. Talene’s writing is modern, witty and mischievous, we are never allowed to see these people as ghosts of the past.

What’s it like to be part of Footprints Festival?

It’s so brilliant to be sharing our show alongside the work of so many exciting and talented artists. Our creative team is made up of Jermyn Street Theatre’s 2023 Creative Associates and many more of them will be sharing their own shows as part of the festival. I can’t wait to see the other shows as part of the festival.

The Good John Proctor runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from 10 to 27 January. For more information and tickets visit the theatre website.

Don’t miss our interview about Footprints Festival with Jermyn Street Theatre’s Executive Producer David Doyle.