Clarissa 3: first impressions

So far I’ve felt that episode 1 showcased Clarissa and the talents of Zoe Waites; and episode 2 (gratifyingly) put Lovelace front and center and gave us Mr. Armitage’s rather amazing range of voices and moods from a multitude of perspectives. I liked episode 3 the best so far, though, because it was the most integrated in perspective and though not much happens until the very end, the last ten minutes of the episode are devastating, especially the last scene, which, if you allow yourself to be drawn into the production. During the production I found myself giggling out loud, but also mourning the fate of Clarissa.

We hear Armitage in a number of guises: the libertine, of course, the feigned put-upon husband, for example; we hear Lovelace presenting ecstasy and happiness as well as rage and frustration. I think part of what I am enjoying about this is that the radio play allows the actor a greater range of emotion as he has to communication completely without visuals. It’s hard to imagine this script being played with anywhere near as much verve if we had to see it.

The final scene (in which, as the BBC radio announcer said dryly ahead of time; “in this episode, Lovelace forces Clarissa into ultimate degradation”) made Armitage sound as evil as I have ever heard him, but not in an aggressive way. That is to say, there are a few moments in this episode where Lovelace is truly angry or enraged–and this rage is different from that of Guy, which is how we are used to see Mr. Armitage play enraged–but in the last scene it is played as the pure, exultant victory of the powerful over the powerless. It does not need to triumph, it merely asserts that it has won. Mr. Armitage plays this perfectly–with calmness and just an edge of gloating on the edges of his voice. I can’t believe I am saying I look forward to listening to it again. His evil is just that convincing. It’s not that you like it (or him, or the character); it’s rather that evil’s consummation is so compelling, even as Clarissa is so artfully, so gently, destroyed. We hear no violence; only a kiss and some labored breathing.

I keep look for something in the script or Armitage’s performance to criticize in order to make my analysis more convincing, but so far I am not finding it.

~ by Servetus on March 28, 2010.

6 Responses to “Clarissa 3: first impressions”

  1. Neither could I. He was amazingly good. I was so caught in the emotions of the last scene that I’m still thrilled and can’t find the way to calm down.
    In this episode, Lovelace’s seducing whispers, his threatening shouting, his parody of a toothless old man, his being overbearing at times and imploring in others, gave Richard a wide range of possibilities to exhibit his talent.
    Bravo, Richard!


  2. I thought the quiet but lethal seduction of Clarissa was very well done. The many voices/characterisations he has needed to play in this drama has truly brought out the best in him.


  3. I agree. As the episode ended I found myself slightly stunned, in that I was completely enthralled, but in a horrified way! It was so believable that it took me a bit to come back to reality! I thought RA played it just right, but it was a fine line between complete evil and misdirected passion. I believed that he really did love her, and yet he didn’t know how to behave as a lover. He was stuck in his role as seducer, and somehow needed to conquer her, not realizing that in doing so, he was losing any chance of really having her. It was very tragic (for both of them)!


  4. Oh he was wonderful in thus and I can’t believe that I could not detect anything of his normal voice in that of the old West Country gentleman.

    Another thing that I am loving about Clarissa is that it is probably the only thing that he has done which all his fans around the world are able to simultaneously access due to the wonderful BBC iPlayer. Isn’t that rather wonderful?


  5. […] The Gruffalo made the excellent comment here that one of the great things about the current production of “Clarissa” is that all […]


  6. […] minutes of Clarissa 3 Just listened to it again on rebroadcast. I reiterate my perception here about the quiet victory of the powerful over the powerless, but also want to underline the […]


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