fanstRAvaganza two, Day 2!
fanstRAvaganza 2 has kicked off and the fun has begun! We hope this week give you a chance to revel completely and unabashedly in the enjoyment of the work of our favorite actor, Richard Armitage, and learn more about the opinions and reactions of our fellow fans in Armitageworld. Thanks to Nat and Traxy for their organizational efforts. You can vote on my poll (which Porter trousers?) from Day One till the end of the event next Monday — one attempt per person. And don’t forget to keep visiting the blogs of the bloggers below for all kinds of fun stuff:
An RA Viewer’s Perspective (Mulubinba)
The Spooks Fan Blog (Skully)
The Squeee! (Traxy)
Avalon’s Blog (Avalon)
Phylly’s Faves (Phylly)
RA Frenzy (Frenz)
The Richard Armitage Fan Blog – (Nat)
From the Quill Tip (Sarah)
Mesmered’s Blog (Prue)
White Rose Writings (Musa)
Confessions of a Watcher (Judiang)
It was an early interest of mine as a blogger – one I was able to cultivate in honor of the first fanstRAvaganza – to shine a spotlight on some fans of Mr. Armitage in order to highlight all of the analysis and creativity that his work has inspired. A year later, I continue to find the perspectives of the smart crew of people that make up Armitageworld remarkably interesting. For fanstRAvaganza 2, I’ve interviewed three fans whom I wanted to know more about. Each was asked to pick a screencap she particularly liked, to identify a scene from Armitage’s work that she finds particularly compelling and talk about why, and answer some questions from me.
The first interview I’m pubishing was with fitzg, who did me the honor of being one of the inaugural commentators on my blog. Right from the very beginning, she was hopping in with notes on Renaissance art, comparisons to twentieth-century actors and their performances, and that unique, self-deprecating, dry wit that always makes me look forward to one of her posts. She’s not immune to a little squee, but she’s equally been a valuable interlocutor on some of my more (cough) abstract ideas. She’s also cultivated a strong familiarity with classic theater, cinema, and television, and often displays a strong capacity to orient Mr. Armitage’s work within the world of screen work by acting greats of the twentieth century. I wanted to get her perspective on where Mr. Armitage’s work belongs in this tradition, and also learn what keeps her watching even when he’s not doing “great art.”
Servetus: What was your first exposure to Mr. Armitage’s work, and what kept you watching?
fitzg: It was Robin Hood, by accident. Ironically, a friend had strongly recommended the PBS airing of North & South. By the time we had sorted the fact that it was Mrs. Gaskell, not the American Civil War, I’d pretty much missed it. My first impression of Richard Armitage was of his sheer screen presence and the quality of his voice. Followed by noticing that he isn’t a half-bad actor … which, of course, is a reassuring sequel to what seems like an superficial reaction. And RH was good fun; possibly a bit critically underrated. I made a rapid visit to Amazon for N&S, The Impressionists and RH. As a work in a different genre, N&S offered another environment for Armitage. With a superb cast, production values and script, it was the opportunity for him to stretch his talents. It allowed viewers to appreciate the actor’s versatility more profoundly.
S: To your taste, with which figures of theater or cinema has he the greatest kinship?
fitzg: A difficult question at present. My first thought was of the younger Orson Welles, particularly in his production of The Third Man. Similarities in that work, especially the intensity of acting and the intriguing mystery of Harry Lime, are perhaps most reminiscent of Armitage in the Lucas North role.
I am trying to think of a more contemporary example, preferably one who is still actually breathing. You may attribute this failure to current obsessive blindness. Ask again in six months. Or more. I find myself thinking of Benedict Cumberbatch in the current Sherlock, who has that intensity and the sense of his having carefully thought through his presentation of the character. Perhaps he has been influenced by Richard Armitage?
S: What, about his work, is likely to survive for posterity?
fitzg: We’ve only yet seen the tip of the iceberg. To date, I would suspect that N&S will definitely be regarded as iconic, certainly for its genre. I cannot think of another actor with the capacity to present a Thornton of the same quality. Others may take the role, but as Colin Firth gave us the quintessential Darcy, Richard Armitage has offered audiences the quintessential Thornton. The joy of following the evolution of an actor’s career lies in charting the progress he’s made through previous work. Doing this for an actor is no less compelling than tracking the progression of Claude Monet’s work and the influences it absorbed. As Armitage grows to be more widely known, both new viewers and critics will re-visit all his current and earlier work.
I happen to feel that Gisborne was a tour de force. RH should survive, not least for Armitage’s contribution of the Gisborne role, but also for the disparate elements that, to this amateur reviewer, made a flawed production ultimately a success. Besides, it was fun!
S: You’re also a big reader, something you share with Mr. Armitage. Do you see any ways in which his style and choices of reading are playing into his performances?
fitzg: For a reading-oriented actor, books will have a strong influence. Mr. Armitage has mentioned Crime and Punishment. I wonder how strongly the concepts of sin and redemption in that work influenced his views of Guy of Gisborne? I’m not about to relate this theme to the Lucas North role, because the script of series 9 of Spooks was too flawed to be altogether credible. Obviously, his acquaintance with Tolkien will be reflected in the rendering of Thorin. Or so one expects. Actors imbibe (consciously, subliminally) many influences. It is a fluid process.
fitzg’s choice of a particularly inspiring performance by Mr. Armitage fell upon The Impressionists, during the scene at the first Impressionist exhibit of 1874, which took place in the Boulevard des Capucines.
The scene in which Camille enters the barely-attended first exhibition of the group that was not yet calling itself Impressionists has a poignancy that presages her shocking deathbed scene. That a man can observe the death of a loved spouse, and reach for the palette and brushes to record it, as I learned in a course on these painters, is painful to contemplate. Nevertheless, it represented the artist’s sensibility and priorities. And perhaps that ability to disengage and apply objectivity to emotion was Monet’s instinctive method of working through the grief. I still find it difficult to look at the portrait of Camille.
In the scene, after 0:53, we see a rapid change of expressions on Monet’s face. A visitor! First, excited, hopeful anticipation. Then: it’s only Camille. We see the dropping of Monet’s face in exquisite disappointment. The realization: my wife. A not entirely convincing or heart-felt smile. The dropping of the face toward contemplation. A painful swallow. This is only a very tiny segment of Armitage’s work in this series, but those seconds of “microexpressions” make a powerful tribute to the actor’s ability to inhabit the character.
Sean Connery as Hotspur (Harry Percy) in a cap from An Age of Kings (1960).
S: You are known as a fan of (Sir) Sean Connery….
fitzg: Ha! You are putting my obsessions under the microscope?! (Left myself open for that).
S: This is a blog about a magnificent obsession, after all …
fitzg: I first saw Sir Sean at the impressionable (in all ways) age of fifteen as Hotspur in a BBC production: An Age of Kings. He would have been 29/30. I have had a one-sided, arm’s length love affair ever since. My favorites among his work are The Man Who Would Be Kin (1975), and Robin and Marian (1976). The chemistry between Connery and Michael Caine in the former, and then between SC and Audrey Hepburn in the latter, was striking. I think the “disgrace” to the Celtic nation (knighthood) emerged from BondAge to acting. So there we go…
S: … so what similarities, if any, do you see between Armitage and Connery?
Both actors have screen charisma. Both are very tall. There is a similarity in the way they move. Both have had training and careers as dancers in musicals. Both are (more or less?) dark. Both actors have memorable and distinctive voices. So much for similarities.
One has strong screen charisma. The other has strong screen charisma and is an actor.
S: Gisborne. Why the “obsession” and how can you help other sufferers get over it?
fitzg: It’s not my couch on which he lolls. I wouldn’t have him in my house a day. Seriously, this was a very strong and individualistic performance. And I’m not enlarging on the sensuality of the presentation. It’s there, as a force of nature. Gisborne did come to dominate the series. At the same time, my impression is also that Mr. Armitage is a generous ensemble player. Apart from off-screen comments by those involved, I felt that this trait was most evident in scenes with Lucy Griffiths, and those with Keith Allen, and last but not least, those with Joe Armstrong, whose Allan was a combination of humor and heart-rending pathos.
As for getting over it, it’s Angie’s couch! Even if she does kick him off, I’ll continue to re-visit that distinctive performance, including the truly funny scenes from the third series. It was a rounded characterization.
S: You, like me, have been frustrated with the interviews with Mr. Armitage that we read in the popular press. What interview questions would you ask Richard Armitage if you had the chance?
fitzg: Circuses, needless to say, are barred from the list. So are girlfriends. When I think about this I conclude that I would only have a few minutes grace, between a punch-up in Captain America, a sword-fight in The Hobbit, and an assassination attempt in Strike Back 2. So we probably wouldn’t get far… but here are my questions:
a) Have you been strongly influenced by past actors and why?
b) In view of your statements concerning approaching a role with a biography/backstory for the character, has it been difficult to adapt to script surprises in television dramas? Have you found that your personal understanding of the character evolves during the process?
c) With regard to presenting a Richard III completely divorced from that of Shakespeare and the Tudor regime, how closely would it be based on The Sunne in Splendour? Is there sufficient nuance/shades of black and white within that source to render a Richard as more than a much maligned and as a normally flawed human figure?
S: Finally: when are you going to start a blog?
fitzg: As soon as Malcolm signs that 24/7 contract as tech pro. As soon as I can think of an approach/theme/tone that is not already covered by the blogs involved in organizing Fanstravaganza…
S: Thanks for your time, fitzg!
Fitzg reports of herself: Capricorn, the dead boring star-sign. In addition, goats are silly-looking. (Of course, there is that Monet beard.) Not a mountain goat, either. Fear of heights; just the thought of the Eifel elevator see-through floor is vertiginous. But for a premature birth, I could have been an Aquarian. A contender. Aquarians have more fun; back during the Age of Aquarius, they seemed to, anyway. Perhaps it was the sex, drugs and rock and roll. Still, goat hooves remain on the ground (precipices excluded). Well, except for confrontation with Mr. Armitage. Wonder if Malcolm is a Capricorn…
[Fan showcases from last year are here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63. I plan to continue this feature irregularly while I continue to blog Mr. Armitage. If you would be interested in being interviewed, please let me know. My email address is in the sidebar under "About." -- Servetus]