British English and the Casting of Tituba

As the film extracts and the visual documentation of our production of The Crucible show, the lines were delivered in British rather than American English, and the black slave Tituba was played by a white actor. Both decisions were born of necessity and will briefly be accounted for here.

The choice of retaining the cast’s British English was made on purely practical grounds. In a four-week rehearsal period, it would have been a profound waste of time to train all the actors to deliver their lines in acceptable (and not laughable) American English accents. Such time was better spent developing clear and focused deliveries. And as with any theatrical convention, the audience accepted it, and I heard no negative comments anecdotally or through an anonymous online survey of audience members. If anything, creaky faux American accents could have had a far more distracting effect on the reception of the material.

The casting of Tituba was also a practical decision in that all the students auditioning for this production were white. However, it is also worth noting even if an actor of colour had auditioned, it would have been ethically problematic to equate ‘black actor’ and ‘slave’. Consequently, the production sought to mark Tituba as the figure who was on the lowest rung of the social ladder by the way in which she was treated by the other figures.