Armitage Equilibrium

This is a building block for later post(s), especially on Guy of Gisborne and “Robin Hood,” and to some extent on “Spooks,” but comments on it in this form–especially any that help me refine the idea–are welcome.

I’d like to describe something today that I’ll name the Armitage Equilibrium position. I want to argue that by means of this physical pose, Mr. Armitage expresses or alternately enacts some aspect of emotional equilibrium; one of those possible outcomes for the viewer is perceived sincerity.

We’ve all noticed the gesturing hands in parallel, which appeared quite vividly in the interview on the DVD of “North and South.” Though there would be plenty to say about it, I don’t want to comment on this interview at this point further other than to remind everyone of it. If you look at the bottom of the screen you can see that the camera has half cut them off, but they are going like crazy. At some point, I think in the later half of the interview, the camera comes in a lot closer to his face, almost as if to cut off the distraction of seeing parts of hand motions at the bottom of the screen.

At the point of that interview, part of the dynamic at work was obviously Mr. Armitage’s unfamiliarity with the interview experience and perhaps a certain amount of embarrassment. He got much better at interviewing, but you see the same gesturing hands and body in parallel in later interviews:

This above is from the DVD extras to series 2 of “Robin Hood.” He’s got the defensive leg up in front, but behind that we see the square posture and hands gesturing in parallel.

It’s particularly in evidence in the “Affairs of the Heart” interview, when the hand gestures become more balanced:

As viewers we are conditioned to like the symmetry of Armitage Equilibrium. It looks relaxed, balanced, proportioned, graceful. It may have some roots in early dance training. The roundness of the gestures (the description of circles in the air with the hands) conveys both earnestness and energy.

Mr. Armitage appears never to have become very comfortable with interviews. We see some defensive body language in almost every interview I’ve seen. But I think the general point holds as Armitage Equilibrium can be enacted in a variety of ways in different settings. Indeed, how well he is dealing with an interview can be at least partially gauged on what aspects of Armitage Equilibrium we see appearing in it. Notice how, for example, he twists his body in relationship to interviewers here:

[The original interview footage has been deleted from youtube, but this was the interview I had in mind.]

He starts off in Armitage Equilibrium toward the studio, but with his neck twisted toward the interviewers. After the second sequence from Spooks 7.1, the right leg has gone up and only then does the gesturing really begin in earnest. The concession to the interviewers is the lowered right shoulder, but this seems to happen primarily to permit some nervous stroking of the sofa later in the interview. Note how at the mention of waterboarding he twitches slightly but not unnoticeably, reaches his arm between his legs, and almost makes himself smaller, and the angle of the neck toward the interviews increases; his head is also falling at that point. (You really didn’t like being waterboarded. Can’t blame you.) Exact same movement (self-reassurance?) when asked about his feeling about winning the role of Lucas North.

Armitage equilibrium, I argue, involves a parallelism of hand motions, the extension of the hands and arms toward the interlocutor, and a placement of other parts of the body in symmetrical equilibrium; that is, square toward the interlocutor and with the paired body parts in parallel.

Edited to Add: I forgot to mention the CBeebies pieces in this post, but they’d also tend to substantiate this position. Mr. Armitage is playing Richard, and we see square on, big hand gestures, symmetrical positioning off paired body parts. This is an in between role, in that he says at the beginning “My name is Richard,” i.e., he is playing himself in them. Remember to think more about this, S.

~ by Servetus on March 21, 2010.

14 Responses to “Armitage Equilibrium”

  1. I don’t think doing TV interviews sits well with RA at all – he always looks ill at ease imo. I agree about the hands gestures – I have numerous screencaps of them but in terms of the body placement, I wonder if part of that has to do with the set design for these interviews. The lounges are always placed at an angle to the interviewers.


  2. I heard him make a casual remark on a radio interview once about how the TV interviewers didn’t really take their task very seriously. That’s got to be annoying–you do some hard creative work and then you are obliged to flog it with the help of the superficial medium of the morning talk show. The pre-Spooks 7 interviews, if I remember correctly, were done on a single-day jaunt back to the UK while he was filming RH 3 in Hungary, and that must have been a huge disruption as well.

    On the set design, yes and no, or yes, no and maybe. The sets have the V-shaped design you refer to, but he could twist his torso to reproduce Armitage equilibrium or even just to look at the interviewers more directly. Or, he could maintain it with regard to the camera–but there it looks like he’s twisting his head. In any case he repeatedly makes it look like he doesn’t really want to engage the interviewers head on.

    My own caveat about this conclusion, which I didn’t include in the original post, is that maybe he was worried about the back of his head. The pre-Spooks 7 interviews also have to cope with Guy’s hair, which seems to be pinned to the back of his head. Maybe he was concerned about revealing that to the studio or the camera. Even so, I think that the general point about the gestures and symmetrical presentation of paired body parts holds.


  3. Agree with Mulubinba that he seems not entirely at ease in interviews, but also that set design can have something to do with it.

    Still, while he is probably as flattered as anyone would be about reaction to his physical presence, he is an actor very serious about his profession.

    There is a red carpet vid (can’t pinpoint it) in which his carriage and presence have the impact of those “old-time” leading men. Gregory Peck comes to mind…


  4. […] big building blocks of arguments here in the past, for example, on my position as reader, or on Armitage equilibrium, but on these issues — objectification and "why Armitage?"– I am going to take the opposite […]


  5. […] Is this presentation a case of Armitage equilibrium? Look at the motions of the hands at the beginning, but also the hand rubbing at the […]


  6. […] 2. All through the scene between Dean and Lucas in 7.6 referenced above, Armitage places Lucas’s body in a position with strong resemblances to Armitage equilibrium. […]


  7. […] we’ve got a lot of Armitage equilibrium here, and it’s still a bit odd for me to see it deployed on behalf of such a dishonest […]


  8. […] gesture, every register on that particular series of emotions he has in this scene. He mobilizes Armitage equilibrium repeatedly, for instance, as well as pain, and he doesn’t turn away from Harry’s […]


  9. […] This is also a classic instance of what I originally called “Armitage equilibrium,” which always has a nice effect on […]


  10. […] trying harder. In a sense, wide eyes can be put in a sort of similar position as what I termed Armitage equilibrium, although not for the same purposes — I argued that Armitage equilibrium is about sincerity, […]


  11. […] seen an Armitage this relaxed and confident and above all mature in a video interview. Definite Armitage equilibrium here, but unhurried, calm, expressive, as opposed to tense, frenzied, self-calming. So yes, Mr. […]


  12. Wonder how the Alexander Technique plays into this, especially during interviews. Somewhere, I read that he’d studied this technique, so I looked up a couple of books on it in the library. It’s evidently a way of holding your body in a balanced fashion that will keep you relaxed and pain-free, studied by performers and dancers and other people who need to use their bodies effectively.


    • he’s stated it once, in a “blog” in Sky Magazine while he was filming Spooks, and it is also part the curriculum at LAMDA.


  13. […] was that people thought I was being authentic even while I was hiding behind a series of masks. Authenticity was itself a performance, which was something I tried hard to say about Richard Armitage back in the […]


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