It's been many many years (55 to be precise) since I was last reduced to a quivering wreck at any event (apart from a couple of Liverpool performances). I was five years old and I can still remember leaving the screening of Old Yeller wailing because (spoiler alert) "that dog is dead". But fifty-five years later the same thing happened yesterday and my stiff upper lip disintegrated during the final moments of The Crucible at the Old Vic. I was not alone - during that final scene I scanned the faces of my fellow theatre goers and lost count of how many were distraught, clutching tissues or weeping openly in what was the most memorable piece of theatre I can remember.
Although that final scene was made unforgettable by Richard Armitage as John Proctor, this was not just a virtuoso performance. Each and every member of the cast was nothing less than outstanding in a play that drew its audience into its heart and held them mesmerised for over three hours.
We were exceptionally fortunate to have front row seats. And front row at The Old Vic is FRONT ROW as, if this photo had been taken during yesterday's show, my foot would be visible bottom left as I cowered whilst the young "witches" trembled together in front of me. It's easy to jump on the superlative bandwagon as all the critics have given this production five stars but, if you are a regular visitor to this blog, you'll know that we went to Simon Russell Beale's Lear at The National a few months ago, a piece of theatre that was similarly acclaimed, and I hated it.
Like Thursday's visit to Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, in The Crucible we saw another allegorical piece but in the film I saw the injustice - in the play I felt it. Absolutely wonderful.
When the play finished and we pulled ourselves together from the emotional wringer that we had been through I asked the iPhone to recommend the best London restaurant that doesn't take bookings. It came up with 10 Greek St in Soho so we headed straight there. The play was a matinee so it was only about 6.30 when we arrived in Greek St and we were shown straight to a table - very lucky as those who came after us were put on a waiting list. It was a very very young place and we certainly felt our age but the service was great, the food delicious and the atmosphere buzzing - a great way to recover from our most extraordinary afternoon.