ARTHUR Miller’s masterpiece about the Salem witchcraft trials more than 300 years ago still sends out a powerful message 60 years after the play first appeared and Dorchester Drama group have excelled by raising their standards to new heights.

It is no mean feat for an amateur group to stage this serious work, not least because it has a cast of 17 actors, almost all of whom have strong roles in a production that lasts nearly three hours.

Loosely based upon true events, it explores the morality and motivation of people when a number of girls decide to play at devil worship partly to avenge one of their number, Abigail, who was sacked from her job after she had an affair with a local farmer, John Proctor.

Accusations abound as the town gets caught up in fear and guilt over the trials while both church and the law bend the truth in order to preserve their own reputations, pointing the finger at anyone who disagrees with them.

Hypocrisy sets the scene in the person of Sean Colledge as Samuel Parris, a vicar whose young daughter has caught the witchcraft bug so he has to find someone to blame. Opposing him is Oliver Hickey as fellow vicar John Hale who sees the hidden agenda that is being played out while Amelia Chorley is in fine form as Abigail while Dee Thorne, Kitty Sansom, Lorna Simpson, Matilda Sansom and Sue Worth all pretend to see the devil in various guises.

Ian Farley is convincing as the martyr John Proctor, his wife, played by Lee Stroud also directs the play, the lawyers being played by Fran Sansom, Rob Sansom and Sam Kelly with Mike Staddon as angry fellow farmer Giles.

The Corn Exchange setting proves to be a challenge for the cast with its less than perfect sound and lighting systems but everyone works hard to bring to the stage a play that tells a story of corruption and mistrust along with loyalty and love. This fine production has a further performance tonight at 7pm and tomorrow at 2pm and 7pm.

Buy tickets from Trinity Stores, Trinity Street, Dorchester, or from the box office on 01305 268692. Tickets are £9 in advance and £10 on the door and cost £7 for under 18s.