The Crucible performance that never was: August 25th

Continued from here. [All these pictures are stolen.]


522I sleep well, and wake up in the early evening and traipse next door to a pub for a pint of bitter (Wells Bombardier, in case you’re interested, which I’d tried in the U.S. and quite like) and a beef pie, and a piece of banoffee pie (I’ve been reading about this for years — and it’s truly awful. But at least now I’ve tried it). And then I traipse back and post a few times. So far, my on-blog masquerade seems to be holding up at least in terms of no gap in blogging, if not in terms of the times I am posting. Then I go back to bed. I realize I haven’t been sleeping well for days and hope this trip will reset my clock a bit.

Job one for Monday is to run an errand I have planned in Southwark, and then walk to the Old Vic box office to pick up the tickets and try to work out the returns I wanted. Now that Guylty’s coming it won’t be as much of a pain. Except that it’s a bank holiday (I knew this — LondonFriend had told me, but somehow the information hadn’t fully registered) and so the errand can’t be accomplished. And then it’s raining. Not hard in the way of our tempests at home, but quite heavily and very steadily and it goes on and on and on. It’s not long before my tennis shoes are soaked and despite the umbrella and jacket, the rest of me is damp as well. The negative feeling from the day before yesterday is returning in spades. At first, I think it’s the rain.

BruANYZIAAE8DS9I get to the box office — and this is the first time I see that huge, gorgeous poster of Richard Armitage as John Proctor; I haven’t seen it in the tube, unfortunately. I give them my diverse order numbers and they print out all the tickets and I try to explain what I want — I now need only nine of the tickets I have and would like to return the remaining ones. I’m hoping this will be no trouble as the show has been sold out for some time now and I’ve seen pictures of people queuing for returns. After a little condescension from the ticket agent about how many tickets I’ve bought and some rather passive-aggressive discussion — sorry, Old Vic, I wasn’t rude; your customer service leaves a little to be desired, or maybe it’s just the conflict in the canon of manners between the English and Americans — we straighten the situation out and I leave with the tickets I need in hand and the other ones slated for return. The queasiness grows. What the heck is my problem?

Great Suffolk Street SE1I now splash my way back to the hotel and decide that rather than sightseeing in London in the rain, I’ll journal for a while and nap. I take off my wet things and spread them through the room to dry, and lie down. The hotel wakes me up as requested at five, and I think a little — and in the brief moment before the nausea descends onto my body again, I realize the problem is a proximity issue. Here I am, to see this play, and Richard Armitage is here to do this play. We’re in the same notional space for the first time ever in any meaningful sense. That’s why I am feeling so sick and unhappy. OK. At least I know now what the problem is, even if I can’t fix it. All of my bubble rule issues are being severely provoked. I log on and chat for a while with a fellow fan in the U.S. who calms my fears and reassures me I am not crossing my own boundaries.

At 6:15, I say goodbye to her and turn off my computer. I open the suitcase and look for the theatre outfits. Which I stuffed in there at the last second. The skirt from the first one doesn’t fit anymore — slides off my hips, and I don’t have a belt. Shoot. Okay, second try works. Black skirt, black top, black jacket, black boots. I don’t like the flounce on this skirt so well and realize I have no stockings. Oh well, S, no one is looking at you. I put it on, don my black coat and shake off my black umbrella and take up my black shoulder bag and walk in my black mood toward the theater (about seven minutes walk at my very slow pace) and decide to have dinner at Pret a Manger on The Cut. This also makes me think pleasantly of mom, who wanted to eat every London meal here while we were visiting, but I am way too nervous to eat anything and I tuck the food I’ve bought into my bag.

img_0255At 7, the restaurant closes, and so I take the last few steps toward the Old Vic, and there’s a huge crowd of people in front of it. Huh, I think. Early arrivers? I get to the entrance and pull out my ticket and offer it to an usher who’s standing outside the theater, which I think a bit odd. Usually ushers are outside the theater, but I noticed that morning that it is a kind of small space. Oh, she says, have you only just arrived? Yes, I reply. The performance has been canceled tonight due to unforeseen circumstances. I must look horrified, because her face falls when she sees mine, and I say, Is everyone all right? and she says, unforeseen circumstances is all we have been told. She’s perfectly nice as she offers me a coupon for a free drink in the bar and tells me how I can seek a refund.

I walk into the lobby and a space that comfortably holds perhaps 50 people is completely mobbed with disgruntled theatergoers. A long line goes up the staircase, and the room is cramped, muggy, and loud. I don’t know anyone there (or I probably do, but don’t know how to find them, and don’t want to out myself); I am damp; I don’t especially want a drink; and it’s going to take hours to get a refund. I decide to walk back to the hotel, which I do, getting drenched yet one more time in the process.

I strew yet more wet clothes around the room to dry, and turn the computer back on (how did we manage before we had these devices?) and discover that Armitage had tweeted that the performance was canceled not long after I’d logged off earlier.

No tweet from Old Vic — although they have a Twitter account. #Fail. In any case, it couldn’t have been avoided, but the anger and frustration on the web are great. I think — I should have hung on to those tickets, I could make some people happy, but I don’t think I can get them back now. I try to sympathize with one or two people who are now wondering what the heck they’ll do. And then I see — Armitage is in the bar, taking pictures with fans. Wow. Class act.

And now I’m doubly, triply happy that I fled the theater.

Guylty sends me a message, because tomorrow’s the day she’s coming. What if it’s canceled again? We have no information. We decide that the point is less the play, which she’s seen before, than the opportunity to meet. She promises to ring me from the lobby of the hotel when she’s there, and I call it a night.


To August 26th, part 1.

~ by Servetus on September 5, 2014.

19 Responses to “The Crucible performance that never was: August 25th”

  1. […] To August 25th. […]


  2. The rain that day was terrible – bank holiday ruined! I went to see Into The Storm in early evening which was a consolation I suppose. Very bad luck for you considering the track record before was 100%.


    • I was quite shocked! I’d read somewhere that Freeman had been sick and used his understudy — and then, of course, Armitage had doused himself in icewater only a few days earlier and I was wondering whether he’d made himself sick. When the rumor came about the roof, I thought that strange in that we’d all be invited into the building. I was glad it was resolved the next morning.


      • There was also a cancelled Richard III performance due to a power issue – it happens I guess…


        • yeah. You kind of have to figure that these things will happen. Shigata ga nai. That was part of the rationale in buying lots of tickets — I needed a fallback. Maybe not as much of one as I had, but there you are. I didn’t regret it in the end.


  3. […] from here. I don’t think I’m putting any pictures in this one. Just words. But words that mean a […]


  4. Now I know what you meant by “resonate”. i.e. our mail correspondence on that night. That my actions and reactions as a result of this cancellations “resonated with” you. I admit I wondered about that.

    You fled too…I went back though – through the rain… but the courage to meet RA in person simply left me. Outside the theatre – in the rain.

    I sincerely asked myself what I was doing there; married with two kids. I just couldn’t do it.

    I’m 40+, supposedly well-grounded, self-reliant, usually not impulsive. But when it comes to RA, it’s apparently a completely different story.

    And that’s what I got out of my (impulsive) adventure to London. I discovered some aspects about my ‘modus operandi’ and my personality, my objectives and desires in this life that I wasn’t aware of (conscious of), and some of them I like, and others I really don’t enjoy too much.

    You, it would seem, had/has a much more transparent purpose for your visit. It seems twofold: It relates to your mother’s passing and the relationship you had with her, and also it relates to your continued personal journey in life.

    This is how your words resonate with me. My purpose for being here (RA fandom) is the continued journey to finding myself.

    You describe this SO, SO WELL. Sorry about this long comment.
    I’ll take my leave now, and let you get on with the story of your journey.


    • I think the desire to meet him (as opposed to the desire to see the play, which can at least be putatively assigned to some intellectual / cultural impulse, although to be perfectly honest, I would never have spent this much money and time to see The Crucible on another continent if Armitage hadn’t been in it) is where all the justifications break down — there simply is no really good counter to the “I’m an adult, why the heck am I doing this?” objection, at least on conventional grounds. If you accept it and look at it you can really learn something, but it’s really hard to get there, I think. Whether or not you want to be open about it: on the one hand, the escapism / enjoyment / pleasure principle impulse is really strong; on the other, the fear of what you might find in yourself if you look too closely is so loud it’s deafening. (And not that I have any objection to escapism; Armitage has provided a lot of that over the years and I’ve taken every minute of it gratefully.)

      I figured that seeing the play was part of the personal journey — I hadn’t thought much about the question of grief / mom as it played into all of this, although it became frightening visceral on Thursday morning of the trip. I can see it now, though, as the culmination of one of the themes of this summer.

      No worries about long comments. We all have stories to share.


  5. […] The next piece of this post is me trying to explain what changed between Tuesday night and Monday, when the proximity issue was making me so nervous I couldn’t eat, and learning that Armitage h…. […]


  6. it really was an awful day, i kept thinking about all the poor people who had travelled and missed out 😦 The Old Vic is truly old and they have a restoration project in the pipeline but are struggling a bit i think with the money, loads of it to do with the roof. Water, very old buildings and electrics joint together often cause problems around London, leaky roofs very common, every house i ever lived in had one! a leak i mean.

    Reading this i just want to go back in time and give you a hug! I can’t imagine the thoughts and emotions, the old ones seemingly so fresh and the new ones, utterly confusing. But i totally sympathise with the issue of not being able to control what you remember. I’ve read last night until about 4am, not quite done but was to tired to leave some thoughts so wanted to do this now. I think it is amazing and maybe a sign your soul is sort of healing itself? that you were able to enjoy performances and connect with the present a lot. Not necessarily replacing the old with the new, but making new one and adding your take on London to what you remember and hopefully it will have left a different impression.
    I find it impossibly hard to disconnect after a holiday home and this year i tagged a last bit of travel for a show onto it and for the life of me i don’t remember a thing (although i had been looking forward to the trip for a year) all i remember is my thoughts being at home with everything that went with it and not a thing of that trip, as if i never was there.

    I don’t know why we remember only or certain things first, but maybe we remember this stuff first only to set it aside and then get to the better things or nicer memories. Maybe we are meant at some point to accept that we can make different memories.
    Still thinking you were bloody brave to be in London knowing that it would be unavoidable to relive some of it. And then have that happen on the first day. well done for getting up the next morning and facing the day, i really wish London had been kinder to you… x


    • Back in the hotel, I remember hearing Armitage’s voice out of the corner of my ear and thinking “what” and realizing it was a Barclay’s ad — and thinking, well, that’s the closest you will get to him today 🙂

      It was an unpleasant day; I think the worst part of it for me was not knowing what the problem was and whether it would be solved in time for the next performance. But it obviously took them by surprise, too, given the very late cancellation.


      • ah i remember that! It was after 2 Crucible and increasing lack of sleep and i suddenly heard his voice in my flat!!!!! Thankfully i managed to glance at TV quick enough to see end of advert otherwise i would have been completely freaked out by the idea i started hearing him everywhere! 🙂
        yes i figured, people were scared that is why i tried to explain on twitter it was very likely roofing + electrics but don’t know how many people caught it, it’s a very stressful situation


        • someone said “roof” and suddenly people were tweeting about how the roof was collapsing. One of my less positive experiences with twitter this summer. I figured that couldn’t be true, because they let us into the building, but I couldn’t SAY that because I was pretending not to be there.

          It was hard to escape the conclusion, after that awful weather, that it had somehow to do with the rain, even though they weren’t saying.


          • there is an explanation locally for that anxiety, there was very recently the scandal at one theatre where the roof did literally fall on people and hurt quite a few; i’m guessing it’s this recent thing that prevented to Old Vic to me more open with the explanations, they didn’t want people to panic and think the same thing was happening.


            • well, naming no names, the person who started this rumor was (a) American and (b) not in London at the time and (c) not likely to have been aware of what goes on in the UK theater world, but we can’t know for certain.


  7. […] I myself hope to see things that I could see because I missed one perspective entirely from the cancelled Monday evening performance, and because I only saw the play once from any further away than the first row. I hope that we see […]


  8. […] the things to check off of my “classic English dishes” list. It was fine, but as with banoffee pie, I thought maybe you had to be English to appreciate it fully. I liked the bread and butter at […]


  9. […] would have to happen the evening we were meeting, which was supposed to be the second one. However, the issues with the Old Vic roof meant that I didn’t have a first night to scope things out and figure out what I was comfortable with — if I was going to do it, it had to be the night […]


  10. […] Armitage trips have been accompanied by liquid sunshine. The first night I was supposed to see him, The Crucible got rained out. When Babette and I went to see Brain on Fire at TIFF, it was pouring, too. It was humid and rained […]


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