Shackled, Armitage, still you demand my response

BuY-gAxCQAAGcXMRichard Armitage as John Proctor in the Old Vic production of The Crucible, June 26, 2014. Photograph by Johan Persson.


That great cord of shoulder balanced on the naked expanse of your neck; the tension strung through your arms against the gentleness of your fingers; the rocking back on your heels like a venerable tree in a hurricane wind. So often I feel you tease but this time you invoke, provoke, call the heavens down upon me. I can’t protect myself. With your own openness you leave me no shield.

Who wins, the wind or the tree?

Your hands are open and what do you hold, an idea, a feeling? Us? You are coarse and not gentle and yet I feel that thing you touch — me? my mind — noticed, guarded, caressed. You hold my eyes so I can’t shut out the noise of your shout; rapt, I can’t spurn your message without words. Your beard has teeth like your words and I cower, paralyzed. I think you could be just a blur as you move elsewhere, but my glimpse of your scream mobilizes and immobilizes, I cannot drag my eyes away from your rage.

Who humiliated you? From which part of your weakness does your power come?

Tell me — in your shout that whispers — tell me! How can you be even more powerful with your hands enchained?

~ by Servetus on August 7, 2014.

16 Responses to “Shackled, Armitage, still you demand my response”

  1. Yes! Well said… Amazing image.


  2. Serv, you’ve got it! Honestly, you’ve blessed with powerful eloquence in finding the right words. Respekt.


  3. Truly poetic. And the proof that a powerful performance will touch even if only captured in a still image.


  4. Usually my mind tends to “Don’t get your hopes and emotions too high!” With regards to The Crucible I fear I cannot ;-)… With almost every new pic and review the tension and excitement grow… Another 11 days to wait… This pic is extraordinary and I could not have captured it like you did with this amazing description! This has it all! Thanks, Servetus!


  5. Yes 😦 ..and those shackled hands are open.. there is no hope


  6. Brilliant Serv and yes “poetic” is definately the word. I saw The Crucible early in the run and was blown away by everything especially Richard. What a beautiful picture to me it epitomises everything The Crucible is about. Thank You for this.


  7. And here I was just thinking “Hot damn, he’s wearing handcuffs.” 🙂


  8. Your words are as expressive and evocative as his unspoken, Serv – “Who wins, the wind or the tree?” All of it, just perfect – how do you do it?

    And it’s an amazing choice he made, isn’t it, to have his hands open rather than clenched…. perhaps beseeching or holding (as you said) shows MORE power, paradoxically, than greater tension there would have.

    Thanks again for sharing your amazing thoughts.


  9. As always, you’ve given a lovely and moving description of a photograph. I do so wish you could see this play. May I just suggest something about the open hands? At this point, we learn that Proctor has been tortured and he indicates to Elizabeth that he has damaged hands and feet. RA has said that he stands in a stress position before coming on stage so that he walks in a genuinely hobbled way. When he entered, he looked hunched and frail; his hands were covered in blood and he carried them very carefully before him. He has trouble signing his confession. It is only when we get to this shot – ‘Because it is my name’ – that he finally stands up straight and powerful and is John Proctor once more. What surprised me is that, even with all this passion and tension, RA remembers that Proctor’s hands are broken and he doesn’t clench them.


    • originally there was a disclaimer in this post that I have no idea what is going on in the play except it’s clear that this is from Act Four. Took it out because I felt it deflated the feeling I was having / trying to reproduce for the reader. So no opinion / comment re what is actually being done here; this post is solely a response to what I see in the photo, without having seen the play.


      • Yes, I understand that it was just your personal response to an image but my response, after seeing the play, was bound to be slightly different as I processed the details. Because I appreciate and enjoy how you are moved by just one shot, this is why I would love you to see the play and have your response to the entire thing. You always notice so much, I wonder if you would go into sensory overload if you could see the complete production.


    • That is interesting to know, Jaydee, thanks…. I did wonder about the context of this (still) incredibly powerful shot.


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