Richard Armitage intoxication: Wednesday, August 27th

[Continued from here. You’ll have read Guylty’s “day after” reflections from that morning.]


Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 10.58.13 PM[Right: Picture someone else took of the same kind of room I had in the hotel I stayed at. Note bed and sofabed — handy for guests like Guylty.]

Sleep doesn’t have a lot of effect on me, as pictures keep chasing their way through my head. And I puzzle a bit about the stage door thing as well — how do you tell someone that watching their work has changed your life? Because of you I decided it would be okay not to keep trying to be a professor and to temporarily stop being a teacher and to seek out something else? Because of you I decided it would be okay to follow my own happiness? Because of you I know how much I want to write? Because of you I remembered that I wanted to be creative? Because of you — it sounds a little nutty. Of course, I could say it in a letter; in that instance it sounds just as nutty, but at least not as completely out of place as a random, impassioned declaration at a stage door with a few dozen people who want a picture watching impatiently. But I muse — the problem is that I want the message understood for what it is, not for some crazy declaration, and that requires conversational context with my addressee that I’ll never ever have. I want a “thanks for letting me know” — or some similar message of understanding — that I will never get. This is the condition of the fan that one never really escapes: the “see ME!” problem.

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 10.57.00 PM[Left: The breakfast we didn’t eat that day. Stolen picture. This is probably driving Guylty mad.]

Guylty’s closed the blackout curtains all the way, which is a good thing — we sleep at most six hours, and miss the hotel breakfast. We talk about this and that, get online and see if there’s news, Guylty takes a shower and it’s half past eleven. I log on and post to keep up the charade that I’m at home, finding a picture of Armitage at the stage door last night, noting that Michael Thomas has announced he will do the Ice Bucket Challenge in the interval between the matinée and the evening performance tonight. Guylty decides to go outside for a bit and I sort through my tickets — today there are two shows — and put on my theater clothes again, or try. The slacks I was going to wear are uncomfortably loose. I decide on jeans, the black boots, and the black top, and this will be my uniform for the remainder of the time at the theater.

I meet Guylty downstairs and we head toward The Cut, where we sit down for coffee outside Caffe Nero. I’m still in a where, if you’re not directly in my face, I’m likely to drift off, thinking about the play and about Richard Armitage’s amazing intensity and presence. Guylty gets coffee and I get a bit of a lunch from Pret a Manger next door, and we chat before the next performance (when Guylty will leave me for the airport). The main line of discussion circles the question of what this kind of experience (live performance, stage door encounter) changes about the quality of one’s fandom (if anything) and about what one writes. Guylty expresses the possibility that seeing him live (which she’s already done once in Berlin and earlier in the summer here) makes one more reserved in writing about him (especially him personally).

050409_caffenero1[Caffe Nero in The Cut. Stolen picture — we sat on chairs that are now on the sidewalk in front of the store.]

I don’t know. I feel something’s decisively shifted since last night — I wonder, for instance, how I will view any screen performance of his now in light of having seen him work unmediated, after having been in the same room with that voice directly shaping my perception of his work, or if I will even want to rewatch older stuff anymore or just leave myself with this impression in my mind until December. But I’m not sure it’s that I feel increased restraint. In fact, I feel a lot less restraint about certain things. Particularly things to do with words. I can feel topics for blog posts springing into my head now. I want to see the play again, but I also desperately want to write, and I keep calling the picture of John Proctor as he ascends the stairs into Betty Parris’ bedroom into my mind, and I focus on the look on Proctor’s face and the texture of his hair and beard and the way he holds his jaw and expresses his anger that Mary Warren is not at home, working, and I feel catapulted into my memories of the previous night and into that direct contact with creativity and flow and artistry. Thinking of that image makes me feel aroused not only by the pictures and emotions I associate with it, but also by the capacity of my own mind. I want to enthuse, I want to breathe deeply, I want to find the words that describe all the things I have seen, even the things that are largely undescribable. All the words. I want to find them all. Put them all together in the right order and write them all down …

It’s hard to keep my thoughts straight; they stagger drunkenly across my my mind and founder on my tongue.

While we are seated there, Michael Thomas (Reverend Parris) walks past the coffee shop. Eventually, it’s time to say goodbye to Guylty. It’s hard to express what the gift of her visit has meant to me. German-Americans aren’t all that different from Germans in our Abstand from PDA. She feels like one of those friends where you just pick up where you left off — and so I don’t press from her any promises. She walks me to the theater, and says thanks and goodbye.

I walk in and lean against one of the columns and wait for entry and watch the people mill around the lobby; the heavily middle-aged crowd from last night (the theater was by no means filled solely with fangirls; though that demographic is in evidence, most of the theater looks just like one expects the audience for an expensive play to look) seems less well-represented and the audience members are both younger and older.


Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 11.06.53 PM

I walk in; smoky smell; monotonous threatening tone in the background; and sit down. On my right an Asian woman sits down who pulls out a copy of the play, opens it to Act One, and begins reading; her copy is filled with annotations in a script I don’t recognize. Seat: F18 stalls, one closer toward the center of the front row. The same (turns out to be) South Korean woman who’d sat next to me the night before is seated next to me again, to my left, and she smiles at me and says hello. Her English is better than my non-existent Korean. She’s flown twenty hours to be here, and this is the eighth time she’s seen the play; she’ll leave after this performance. She asks me if I’d seen the play before last night, and when I say “no,” she tells me that she felt the beginning, with the movement around the chairs, was different last night and not as smooth as it had been before, but that she is sure it will improve again this afternoon. I ask her about the fan seated next to her last night, who ran across the stage; she says she didn’t talk to her and thinks maybe she didn’t know not to do that. She asks me if I went to the stage door and got a picture. I say that I did and ask her if she has. She tells me that she’s asked four times and that Armitage always says yes, but that he’s moved on after saying that and she hasn’t gotten a picture, but she has gotten an autograph. I express sympathy, especially after seeing the situation last night, and ask her if she knows about the Ice Bucket Challenge this afternoon; maybe he’ll be there. She says she heard about it on Twitter (!) and she is going to hang around for it but that she must hurry to the airport.

b81a27ca29c87c7e19160761adea3241[Left: Anna Madeley as Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible.]

I’ve let my thoughts wander last night, I think to myself, now I need to remember as much as possible of what I see. I decide not to rely on simply recollection for my notes, but rather to use a variation of the ars memoriae to log my impressions internally, which I’ll then write down at the interval and after the play. I suddenly feel akin to Armitage, who’s said he uses visual images in order to remember lines (which is also, interestingly, an ancient technique). This isn’t that hard, because I also have read the play several times recently, so I simply associate each place in the play I want to remember with its point in the script and I assign that to a walk through my father’s house.

Excerpts from my notes on that matinee performance:

What I see in the opening scene with the assembled cast and the moving chairs is an emphasis on the quality of the group as a whole congregation — the chairs call to mind the meeting house where they’d have been seated, gender separated. This is perhaps the foreshadowing of Elizabeth’s remark that Proctor cannot see Abigail without blushing. This time I can see Abigail (Samantha Colley) more fully — and the way that her confrontational posture contrasts to Proctor’s more contemplative, open expression and posture. Tonight Proctor has an odd quality of dreaminess, but also much more clearly carries the world on his shoulders when he exits under the chair. He is burdened, but careful, precise, not staggering.

When Proctor enters with his bound up the stairs, I see now what the reviewers meant who talked about Armitage’s earthiness throughout this role, the notable quality of his physical being. Still, I think Proctor’s individuality (over against other roles Armitage has played) is going to lie in the position of his shoulders and head, and in his use of his hands. Something to think about — Armitage’s modification of his classic hand-to-face anguish move, which is present here but used so differently than we’ve seen it before that I have to reassure myself I am seeing it.

Standing on my right, Abigail is already crying all the way through the parts of Act One that she witnesses but does not participate in. This kind of thing makes the character seem both more crazy and more manipulative in this performance than she did last night. In face, the crazier she acts, the more manipulative she seems, and I wonder how the actor figures out this balance in each performance. Her assault on Proctor is even more physical — as if she’s trying to draw more out of Armitage? — and in her rage, they seem more connected now (though I note that I couldn’t see his reaction to her at all last night. The shift of one seat and the fact that they are clearly not hitting marks on the stage but going through a circular choreography that ends them in slightly different positions every time means though I’m seeing the same play, I’m not really seeing the same play. But I understand the potential attraction better — last night Proctor seemed simply done with her.

In contrast to what I’ve heard from other audience members, I’m not seeing all that many gestures that relate all that clearly in mood to gestures from Armitage’s previous characterizations. He’s still got a gestural canon that’s in evidence, but it is heavily suppressed this afternoon.

This performance is really tense, and for some reason I start hearing one of my own “tense melodies” (El Adon) in the background of my mind. The audience is also really different — less live than last night.

What strikes me about Act Two is how the opening asserts a burden of seventeenth-century life that fell on women (because we see that Proctor is fatigued, and the semiotics of that in his whip and gun — but we see exactly why Elizabeth is tired). The way that she walks onto the scene, carrying the basin on her head and the ewer at her hip; the unhurried assurance with which she pours water into the basin, and above all, the stoop that she makes before the basin — remind us of the eternal need for water and water carrying, something that connects her to the universal experience of women in pre-industrial societies. The effect of this staging makes us sympathize with her, as does the kneading of the bread. Note the timing of the lighting change; as she gets ready to slam the dough onto the table, the music hits a punctuation point and the lights become warmer.

The dominant vibe of Proctor’s appearance here is fatigue. Farming (was) hard work — and Proctor’s greater physical exhaustion is marked in his slower trudge into the scene, the way you can see his shoulders ache as he removes his coat (how does he know that? Armitage’s detailed awareness of how different workers move and experience their bodies always flabbergasts me), the dejected way he moves around the room, and the loud, relieved gasping as he washes himself. His entreaties to Elizabeth now have to work their way through his greater fatigue, and they seem both less energetic and more desperate. This feeling of emotional sinking steers them much harder towards the emotional collision of her suspicion that he’s in Salem and the anger of the subsequent part of the scene appears more quickly. Well, tired people are more likely to fight and fight harder — something we see here in spades.

In general, I feel Armitage steering them much harder toward the end of each moment here than I did last night, perhaps because Proctor is so much tireder than he was last night, although he’s also very reflective, as in the “ten commandments” exchange, in which he seems to be thinking over each precept as his recites it. It’s interesting that in his speech, Armitage never goes for the bracketed delivery of the big line, although he gets a number of them in Act Two and in particular in the first half of this piece. Part of it, I suppose, is that although Miller gives him a number of pseudo-poetic lines, Armitage’s Proctor occasionally seems almost pre-verbal in his stances and attitudes. It seems like maybe Armitage is not the Proctor that Miller would have imagined, given the intellectual level of a lot of what the character has to say, over against Armitage’s wild, intense physicality. The ten commandments are a good example of this, although I can’t see his face well from here; this afternoon, Armitage has Proctor pulling something from his brain that seems so structural to his life that it doesn’t need repetition. Only when he’s truly angry does he become eloquent and in much of this scene with Elizabeth, Proctor’s fatigue seems to take over. She wins the verbal battle not only in terms of the way the role is scripted, but also in the greater agility of her energy this afternoon. I don’t usually feel sorry for Proctor at this point in this play, but tonight I really empathize with him. But boy does he escalate at the end — more shouting. Is he trying to rock himself up toward more? In any case, the tears are more obvious than last night, insofar as Armitage pulls Proctor’s crying right up into his sinuses.

Dominant image from the end of the scene — the precarious, spidery way that Mary Warren picks her way across the scene as the change occurs. The light is stark and casts them here and there again in light, in shadow.


Act Three was sort of shocking last night in all of its motion; this afternoon it eventually begins to seem cluttered and I am reminded how much I dislike the “mass hysteria” explanation for the witch trials, although the way the girls perform this scene definitely has its moments and I bet that if you see the play once, yo find it mesmerizing.

I see Armitage at the corner of the stage in the moment when Elizabeth is being questioned, and I am immensely moved by the very subtle reaction on his face as Elizabeth praises Proctor to Danforth — “My husband is a good and righteous man. He is never drunk as some are, nor wastin’ his time at the shovelboard, but always at his work” — and this subtle but completely visible wince goes right straight across Proctor’s face. I feel his shame waft on over toward me for just a moment before it becomes invisible again, and the return is completely to the calculating Proctor — will this work? for he is telling the truth. I wonder how many people can see it, but wow. Nice work. Proctor’s hands move while we are watching his back — and the microexpressions are there. Are they affecting others? He’s in basically the same place as last night, though he starts reacting later, beginning with that deep, rapid eye movement. And water in his eyes definitely comes at the end although I can’t tell if this is so much emotion as it is the effort of keeping his eyes open that long.

Proctor’s response to the girls, as they begin to coordinate their bewitchments — this convinces me less. I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be dumbfounded? He’s constantly in motion, but so is everyone else and it’s hard to get a take on the scene. Here, the whole “earthy farmer” thing starts to be a problem if he’s supposed to be a rational challenger to the fraud the girls are perpetrating.

But what’s notable in this scene as I notice it this afternoon is the interesting way that Armitage modifies Proctor’s posture. He’s miles away from the menace and self-confidence of Act One. It seems like he can add or subtract inches, which is stunning. He has the posture of a farmer, and he’s stronger in his boots, but still subordinate to the court and to Danforth, and particularly full of motion, struggling, as they lead him off and he cries Abigail’s harlotry to whoever’s listening.

Act Four: Proctor’s in significantly more grief at the beginning of this scene — and the indescribable love for his wife comes through much more clearly: “You are a marvel, Elizabeth.” I am still split on how I feel about the ponderous quality Anna Madeley gives Elizabeth’s speech. It works really well in Act Two, somewhat less so here, though it’s consistent with her own declaration that she is “so plain, so poorly made” — I feel for her and I totally understand that. I wonder about Proctor’s commitment to his wife because his fury is much more pronoucned than last night — so that the apex of his own scene is performaned almost weeping. There is, in the end — and interestingly, given Armitage’s predilections — relatively little silence about Proctor. He is so much about motion and anger — all that energy, despite months in a prison.

The exchanges between Proctor and Danforth here are rhythmic, exciting — even without the words. [This is probably Jack Ellis’ best performance of those I have seen, I conclude.]

How Armitage interacts with his own height throughout this scene, how he minimizes it at the beginning, how he uses it through the end to make himself greater — but never with the power of Act One — is fascinating.

What piece of the audience is this play pitched at? Today, I’d say: at the stalls. Wow. I stand up at the end with everyone else and I am reeling, reeling. I have a hard time standing straight. My claps are slow because my mind is still so overburdened.

At the end of the curtain call, Armitage interrupts his own applause to mention Michael Thomas’ plan to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, to ask people to donate money to cast members with buckets who are standing at the exit.

The second he’s gone, I see someone I recognize from FB stride very efficiently to the side of the stage and pick up part of Proctor’s torn confession as a souvenir. I wish I could take the risk to admit I was here and talk to her, because she’s always seemed like fun on FB.


f4d50228-08eb-4856-b0a9-2d891b1828b8[Left: Tituba (Sarah Niles) finally gives it all back to Reverend Parris (Michael Thomas). Source: Michael Thomas’ JustGiving Page.]

We drift outside and stand by the stage door. One of the security people tells us that there will be no pictures with the actors or autographs at this event — and some people drift away. I notice the South Korean woman going over toward Adrian Schiller (Reverend Hale), who bursts out the stage door (as usual) to smoke. Nothing that there doesn’t seem to be a problem with circling around a little more this time, I also get out of the line and move slightly into the street, where I find myself standing next to John Callen (Oín in the Hobbit films), who I will see three more times during my London stay. I have a brief conversation with him, and then Schiller is free.

“Do you take compliments without autograph requests?” I ask him.

He looks at me in confusion for a second, and then says, “Yes, of course!”

Screen shot 2014-09-09 at 1.01.43 AM[Right: Michael Thomas just before the challenge. At photo left, John Callen, standing next to William Gaunt (Giles Corey). Adrian Schiller at right. My pic.]

“I really love what you do with that role. So often as a religious person I feel condescended to by the portrayal of religion on stage, but the scene in which you convince Tituba to ‘come over’ to the light is done exactly right, not overdone, not funny, just very tense and accurate and credible all the way. It’s wonderful to see that done well by someone who gets it.”

He pauses a second and say, “I don’t think anyone’s said that to me before. But thank you.”

[I may post on what I meant by this eventually; Schiller’s performance in the capacity of very religious man who gradually becomes more troubled by what his conviction is working in the congregation is probably my second favorite of the play.]

Some other audience members come up to him, then, and I gravitate back toward the line. It looks like Armitage is not going to join the cast members assembled outside, I assume either because he’s exhausted and needs to rest between performances, or because he knows his presence would change the informal, relaxed mood of the event, or both, or some other reason entirely.

Screen shot 2014-09-09 at 12.19.57 AM[Left: Michael Thomas welcomes his donor, after the challenge. My picture.]

Eventually, Michael Thomas comes out, and explains what’s happening — he’s had a stem cell transplant, and has met his donor, who was present in the audience for the play today. He’s doing the challenge in order to raise awareness of the Anthony Nolan bone marrow registry. I blogged about the challenge here originally, in a post that links to all of Kaprekar’s much better pictures than mine and has vid. You can also donate to the organization via Richard Armitage’s JustGiving page.

Amidst much hooting, Sarah Niles dumps a bucket of ice and water over Parris, and there’s a great deal of clapping, especially when the donor comes forward to shake Parris’ hand.

The South Korean woman comes up to me to show me that she’s obtained a picture of herself with Adrian Schiller — and, she tells me: he recognized me from the audience. How important is the fourth wall, how real, if they can tell who we are, at least by our faces?

The actors go back inside and the rest of us gradually drift away. I go back to Caffe Nero to journal, and while I am there I see four of the actors come in for coffee, including Niles and three of the young women who play the bewitched girls. As I try to write, my hands are still shaking — approaching thirty minutes after the performance, and so my notes are quite difficult to read. I usually have quite regular handwriting, but apparently not when I am writing about The Crucible.

22ad2810-d1d4-46af-bd91-5552cc652af0Donor Jeremy Brice and partner Alicia with Richard Armitage and Michael Thomas, August 27th, 2014. Source.


a[Right: my pic]

I try to eat again, unsuccessfully, and again put what I buy into my bag. I enter the lobby and buy some posters tonight for friends. Then I go to my usual waiting place, leaning against a column, watching the crowd, and wait for entry. The line of people hoping to get in is very long, perhaps because of the situation on Monday night?

I go in calmly and settle myself down. F18 stalls. On my left tonight: two sisters who have bought the tickets as a birthday present and are thrilled about seeing Richard Armitage in the flesh and not all troubled by their equal desires to see him act and see him topless and who ask me in excitement about how to do the stage door to get a picture. I think I’ve got it scoped out now and tell them, and I’m happy to, because they’ve each got a crutch. Which makes me wonder how you get an autograph or a picture if you’re in a wheelchair? There’s a seat toward the left side of the stage from my perspective that is occupied for the second time in a row by an audience member in a wheelchair, and tonight the person has an oxygen mask on. Go, Old Vic. Theater for everyone! On my right, I’ve got an English teacher who’s clearly both a theatergoer (she mourns the omission of this play from the latest GCSE reading lists) and a fan of the current generation of British actors. She’s just gotten tickets to see Cumberbatch at the Barbican next year and tells me what a pain it was.

36248-square[Left: John Proctor (Richard Armitage) bolsters, or forces, Mary Warren (Natalie Gavin) before the court, in Act Three of The Crucible. Source.]

One thing I’m learning about fans from this experience: I’m used to thinking of Armitage’s fans in terms of the superfans, people who have roughly the level of intensity that I have in that they want information about Armitage every single day and want to collect and examine it. But these encounters suggest that he has plenty of fans who are not logging on every single day for information, but they still love him incredibly — although they are not so assiduous as some of us.

As the play starts, I vow to try to pay more attention tonight to Acts Three and Four — which is hard, because Act Two is really excellent.

Again, from my notes:

The most noticeable thing about the general feeling of tonight’s performance is the slow burn beginning of emotion that Armitage has given Proctor in the previous two performances is gone now — Armitage is escalating the emotion in every scene more quickly. He moves faster to the core emotion of the scene — and also repeatedly gets further than in the earlier performances.

In Act One, Abigail is yet more provoking that we’ve seen her so far — not just a finger push on Proctor’s back, but she pokes her finger through a hole in his coat. Their tussle is different — she is even yet more aggressive and he really has to struggle to get her off.

In Act Two, Armitage is less careful, more angrily in charge or confident. This time, Proctor was angrier from the start, less careful with Elizabeth’s feelings in the beginning of the scene, so that his offers of appeasement seem at times passive aggressively combative, as if he offers them as a challenge rather than a propitiation. Her refusal of his kiss makes him almost explosive, and his request for cider’s not a plea as much as a demand. Because Armitage moves the scene faster toward the anger of their confrontation, however, he seems to get further — Proctor’s almost left his anger behind as he delivers the lines about how Elizabeth should not judge him anymore, and this part of the scene is much less angry and much more oddly insistent, with Proctor’s assertion coming not from defensiveness but from some sort of optimism. Elizabeth is also much more openly angry with Proctor than in the previous performances and his anger feeds off of hers.

The result of his hopefulness seems to be that Proctor’s more tender with Elizabeth as he is forced to say goodbye to her, and his interaction with Mary Warren (Natalie Gavin) is also more visceral — because Proctor’s desperation can be deeper, the higher the height of his hopefulness.


This is Armitage’s best Act Three yet!! Because:

(a) he’s already much deeper into the scene — the escalation of the emotions means his character energy arc is already tighter than it was in the last two performances.

(b) he appears much more involved with Abigail, so that he actually cares what she says, as opposed to just dismissing it — he is much more anguished.

(c) we truly see his fear and crumbling in his interactions with Mary Warren, in his urging of her to tell the truth. At this point, Proctor seems almost to be crumbling.

(d) and once he is crumbling, he does not draw it out — his emotions are more quickly present and gone — giving a lot more energy to this scene.

He doesn’t have to hold back his physicality at all because it is moving so fast. And this time, in the part of the scene where Proctor can’t see his wife speaking, it’s his hands that say the most.

The whole energy arc is stronger into Act Four, which is good, because I find myself thinking again that the beginning of this act kills all the tempo they’ve built up over several hours. Armitage’s Proctor is fiercer, he clings harder to Elizabeth, but when he lifts her, his arms shake, and the kiss takes place nearer to the ground. I also finally get the “my name” thing to come over to me convincingly. His voice is loud, and he’s still shouting, but the timbre is a little lowers, such that he can be heard more distinctly — this is definitely a strength out of weakness situation.

Overall: this Proctor seems to be better because Armitage is tireder? The tempo is better, the crumbling moves him further, faster.

[This is something I will think more than once this week — that Armitage has more control over his body than I’ve ever seen him achieve on screen on this stage — and that that has positives in terms of gestural language and negatives in terms of energy. To be discussed more fully in a later installemnt.]

On my own way off toward the stage door, I pick up a piece of Proctor’s confession. The piece signed “JP.”


images[Left: Before, more or less, though in better condition than my copy]

Again, you ask? Did you not get what you wanted the previous night? Well, yes.

What I’d really like to do at the stage door is just observe — but it’s hard, as one almost needs a reason to stand there. The security people understandably don’t want us to stand in the street, and the next closest place to stand, on the sidewalk across the street, wouldn’t let me see much. And you can’t really “follow along,” they want people to stand in single file and let him move past them.

So I decide to stand in the line again and ask for an autograph. I’ve got the copy of The Crucible with me that I had in school, and graduate school, and which I’ve been carrying around with me now since Armitage’s engagement in the play, and it looks like a sort of unique thing to autograph. Might catch his attention.

I rush out with as much decorum as possible and end up just ahead of the fire exit, so about halfway through the line. This time, I’m not looking in the direction of the stage door when he comes out; I have my back to it and am talking to a bunch of fans next to me when the group of fans attempting to get an autograph bumps into me. I turn to my right and there’s Richard Armitage.

He looks at me like he knows me, and I see that familiar left-side-of-face smirk.

“Hi there,” he says, and looks into my eyes. He looks truly amused.

(Servetus’ internal dialogue — shit shit shit shit shit shit — he looks like he recognizes me. Nah, nah, nah, nah. Can’t be, can’t be.)

“You were amazing,” I say, “may I have an autograph?”

He looks down at the proffered book and up at me.

“It’s the copy of the play that I had in school,” I say.

“Wow,” he says, signs, and then continues to move down the line.

He did not recognize me last night, I think to myself, so if that was a sign of recognition, then only because I sat in the same seat three times in a row and he saw me somehow while he was acting. Though he never gives any sign that he sees the audience. Nah, you’re kidding yourself. Part of his post-show charm routine.

As the line ends, and Armitage retires to the theater, I see the sisters next to whom I sat. They’ve got their picture. They’re thrilled.


2012-01-01 00.00.00-28[My copy as it looks now, photographed on top of the compositorial home of “me + richard armitage]

Walking back toward the hotel, I see three young women (college age) with posters in their hand, and I say, “Did you get your autograph?”

“We got one,” First says. “There was this woman who was walking down the line with him monopolizing his time and asking him questions.”

“Totally misunderstood what was going on,” Second says. “It’s a stage door, you get your autograph and your little moment and then it’s over. Not a time for conversations.”

“That’s rough. Maybe you can take the signed one to a copy shop when you get home,” I suggest, “and duplicate it.”

“Have them work their magic,” one of them says.

“What did you think of the play?” I ask.

“OMG — wonderful!” “Amazing!”

(They are very enthusiastic — bubbly, even.)

“You should ask Third,” Second says, “he’s her favorite actor.”

“Oh, wow,” I say, “really? Not Hiddleston?”

“Well, we like him.”

“Not Cumberbatch?”

“We like him, too.”

“So why is Armitage your favorite?”

“He just does everything so perfectly,” Third says. “He becomes the role he’s playing.”

“Will you see it again?” I ask.

“We had tickets on Monday,” Second says.

“Oh, I am so sorry,” I say, “I got caught up in that too.”

“I was so worried we wouldn’t get to see it at all!” Second says. “But we stood in line for returns and we got some tonight.”

“What a relief!”

“I know, right? We’re just going to keep standing in line and see if we can get more tickets.”

We chat a bit, about where we’re from and how awful we all find transatlantic flights (they took their first one ever to get here and ask if it’s always that bad), and I wish them a good evening and they drift off.

“Happy fans,” I think. “In spite of the frustrations.”


After I bid the young women good night, I continue the walk back to my hotel. I’m about halfway there already, as it’s not very far, but I’m exhausted, and visions of the play and the stage door are dancing in my head. I’m turning over this and that in my mind and walking very slowly, dragging my boots and letting my head hang from shoulders, when someone comes shooting past on me on the right.

“Damn,” I think, “I need to remember this is London and I should be more street smart. If I don’t watch it, I’m going to get mugged.”

I turn my head as I feel the whoosh from the passerby and in the lamplight I notice: brown beard, black Nike baseball cap, really big earphones, dark jacket, Herschel backpack, greyish trousers / jeans above sneakers.

I shake my head for a second. He passes me with long strides at a rapid tempo (zügig, I think, would be the German word, as my jaw drops, and I stop in my tracks), and I wonder how anyone can walk at that pace after two such grueling performances. I look after him; soon, he’s out of sight.

Five minutes later, I’m dropping my bag on the hotel room floor and collapsing — at least briefly — onto the bed. Because although I don’t know it yet, I won’t sleep that night. I log on and post. Still no appetite. I toss the food in my bag into the trash.

And when I turn out the light, realizing I won’t be able to sleep, I ask:

What are Proctor’s dreams?


to August 28th, part one

~ by Servetus on September 10, 2014.

32 Responses to “Richard Armitage intoxication: Wednesday, August 27th”

  1. Working with sheep (Sparkhouse), and working on a farm in Salem, Massachusetts gave Him plenty of practice in how to look tired after hard,physical labour..He WAS Tired!!..(He’s talked about this in several interviews..)


    • Well, I have to quibble here, because it’s not just that he looks tired or even that he knows how a farmer walks. I’m a farmer’s granddaughter, sister, and daughter manqué, and what Armitage does goes extremely far beyond that. I’m sorry if I’m not being clear.


  2. Again….I’m living vicariously through you!


  3. I think ‘zügig’ is the perfect description for the ‘RA tube run’ 😀


  4. [LOL on the “stolen pictures” – yeah, I am gonna have to stop reading this blog… not]
    Great to finally hear your in-depth impressions on your next viewings of the play, and the encounters that went along with them. First of all: There is something to be said about sitting separated from companions at a play. You are more likely to start talking to other members of the audience, and I found that to be really interesting and worth-while when I saw the play the second and third times. Not even in terms of discovering fellow fans, but just in terms of engaging with others, gauging their reactions, and checking whether the own reactions are in tune with those of the general public.
    I very much envy you your amazing memory and your capacity to write it up concisely and clearly. While watching the play the second time I had so many moments where I thought “Oh, remarkable scene/detail. MUST remember that!” – and of course it is lost. I would’ve loved to take notes, but no way. The one thing that helped was discussing some details with you in the interval.
    That SD encounter sounds a bit freaky. I surely would have freaked out (probably one of the reasons I decided to remain in the b’ground at the SD), although logic tells me that you are right, and there is nothing in it. Mind you, you are not the only one who had an experience like that. I’ve heard other serial TC-watchers and SD-visitors say the same.
    As for our “morning after” – I was stunned, too, not just from the play, but also from the whole encounter with you, the SD and the late night drinks with the other fans. I doubt I was particularly coherent.
    As for PDA (I had to look that up in the Urban Dictionary because in my life experience so far PDA stands for “Periduralanästhesie” – edpidural!!) – you know, I feel slightly bad here. I remember that I totally fell into your arms upon seeing you the first time with no consideration of your wishes. It was a natural reaction, even though I am usually slightly stand-offish and awkward when it comes to hugging or the “bussi-bussi” type of greetings. I don’t remember if we hugged at the farewell. I think we did, but since I am not a fan of long drawn-out farewells, I was glad to just make a quick exit ggg.
    Last word: The “gift of my visit” – you are too kind. The gift was all mine. Thanks to you I was able to meet you in person. And you made it possible for me to come to a new understanding of RA and get some tangible creative impulses from that. That is an immeasurable gift for which I can never repay you! As was the experience as a whole – the now proven ability to act spontaneously, to make decisions based on immaterial value not financial concerns, to let go of the fear of the unknown, to simply trust. I have learnt a lot from all this, it was far more than just a visit to see a play or an opportunity to meet a fellow fan.


    • I think if I’d been seated further back I might have taken detailed notes, but no way in the front row. (Plus I can imagine that someone would think that was a kind of copyright violation / theft). But I’d be in trouble if I remembered more of these performances — my notes are already ridiculously long.

      Someone said to me a few days later, well, he recognizes shirleyariki, why shouldn’t he recognize you? And really, it was my fault for going to the stage door a second time. The tension between my desire to be known and my fear of being known and my wishes to sort of melt into the sea of fans were really hard at work that week.

      I do remember that we fell into each other’s arms upon meeting, and that we hugged at the end … I guess what I was describing is that it wasn’t überschwenglich.

      So let’s say we gave each other a gift 🙂


  5. It amazes me how detailed you can account for your perceptions, your steps, experiences (it’s been 2½ weeks now). Wow, wow, wow!


  6. The part that grabbed me was the accidental passing on the street. After all your preparation and travel, he walks right past you on the street. It’s like a small gift from G-d.


    • That wasn’t the only time. My main reason for staying in that area was that I didn’t want to be depending on public transportation at that time of night, but the whole cast hangs around there during the day and since I had little desire to go elsewhere (having been in London before and being focused on the play) I saw a fair amount of all of them.


    • It did seem sort of wild the first time it happened, though. More about that in the next post.


  7. You are amazing! I love the details you remember and share. I want to read this series again and again.


  8. […] to August 27th […]


  9. Thanks for your wonderful report Serv’, your memory is amazing as are your words. I truly thank you for sharing xx.


  10. nearly mugged by…. Armitage 😉 great! (i still have to go back and read more of the rest) It would have been just perfect if you’d actually retreated in fear ;-)))) But sounds like just a million other fit Londoners practised in purposeful striding trough streets and tubes 🙂 I never realised it, but my parents tell me whenever i visit to slow down as they can’t keep up or they constantly ask me where i am rushing and why do i do it all the time since there is no need for it when i visit on holidays. It just becomes part of you, distances are big, it’s late in the day and you just go home, purposefully! And he’s very fit, so he can be very speedy. Also, listening to stuff when you are on your way makes you faster around town.


    • That reaction is more about me (see blog title) than about him. My hometown is, although ten times bigger than it was when I was growing up, is still a very, very tiny place. I’ve lived in plenty of big cities but I also definitely did not have my urban shield on while I was in London this time around. For some reason it wouldn’t go up.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. […] got around to photographing. Picked up Wednesday, August 27th, evening performance. Previous post on Richard Armitage relics here. Not sure where this one fits — I know for […]


  12. […] from here. Warning: This is really “in my head”-y. If you’re reading this for information […]


  13. […] get what they want, it’s not his fault; it’s just the circumstances. This is what the Korean fan experienced, repeatedly — getting permission but not the photo. As the crowd gathers around him he […]


  14. love reading this as it reminds me of things i’ve seen and how different the play feels depending on all these nuances 🙂
    Hale – really liked Adrian Schiller in this, my 2nd favourite character in the play and acting too, i said as much to him on the 1 day i did stage door and he smiled and said it was an incredible pleasure to play the character, very interesting. i bet 🙂 so totally agree with you
    Now, i have to address this act 4 issue! I actually like it a lot, i think Tituba adds something vital to the play, the normal, non-religiously obsessed and constrained person. And her situation puts things into perspective, she’s much worse off than anyone, she been taken from her home in Barbados and is a slave! All she ever dreams about other than being treated with some kindness is going back home, which we know is never going to happen.
    I like the scene with her and the old women in prison, it felt very Shakespearean, the normal , small people with their very tragic, non heroic endings. I think it is deeply needed after the total hysteria and abnormality in the previous act. Regimes like these, oppression destroys all life and it is easy to forget that and only see Proctor. But what about how other people cope with all this madness? What hope is there for the innocent but neglected? How does one become a marshal and stay a human being? For me that scene adds and element of completeness and necessary sadness to the play beyond the hysterics, the heroics, the antics and the exaltation, this is reality. Plain, sad and definitive. And it tells you a lot about hopelessness in prison for most people who were locked up and killed for nothing.These people also had their lives, small and insignificant maybe, less prominent, but i think it’s a good reminder that all lives, no matter how unvirtuous or small are important and the likes of Danforth and what he represents trample and destroy all. I like the fact that Miller puts balance in this, and although Elizabeth and Proctor talk about how important they are in the community, hard working, not sleeping in ditches and drinking etc we get to see these people who that society frowns upon. Who defends them??? The sad truth and it’s my only sore point with Proctor too is that nobody, but nobody in that community stands up for the weak and poor and miserable 😦
    But Miller was right in showing them to us 🙂 at least this is how i felt it 🙂

    Unless i totally misunderstood and you meant the scene between the judges and Paris etc before Proctor is brought it? sorry if the above is long and don’t mean to rant too much, but for me the whole slavery etc issue with Ttuba was a very sore point during the run..


    • I think I’ll talk in detail about how I perceived Act Four when I do the full review of the play (if at all), but the tremendous energy with which Act Three ends, followed by one of the most amazing scene changes in that play, with the spooky way the girls walk through and then focus on a point and leave, for me fell very flat every time. This isn’t the fault of the actors — it’s that you have this amazing tension that the next scene doesn’t pick up on in any way. That might have been Miller’s intent, to slow it down again, but for an audience today that’s asking an awful lot.

      I’d have a lot to say about the way the scenes with Tituba were staged, but I want to wait to see if Judi raises the topic in her review, first. This is something that does need to be aired before people see the DVD or there will be outrage.


      • hm interesting, yes i’m curious about her opinions too, it didn’t feel that controversial to me, but maybe i don’t have the right understanding? i did wonder all along how those things resonate with today’s public and why Miller made it like that, historically accurate??? will be very interested in reading what you think about it and Judi too..


  15. […] described my reaction to this scene in the most detail so far here (look under INTERVAL, as this scene occurs in the last third or so of Act Three, beginning with […]


  16. […] solidity that keeps him from make us laugh at him — and so are we. In case you are wondering, I did get a chance to talk to him at the stage door and told him this, in much less detail. I said that as a religious person, I didn’t feel as dissed by this staging of the play as I […]


  17. […] with this because honestly, I would still not ever write Armitage to ask for an autograph, although it turned out that I got one in London (sort of for lack of a better strategy for seeing him at the stage door, the second night I was […]


  18. […] I don’t want a photo or an autograph as I’ve obtained those things, no matter how I feel about them (at that point, much better […]


  19. […] the stage door, determined, apparently, to meet our idol. As we were crossing the street, I noticed the group of young women whom I’d passed a few nights earlier, standing on the corner to the Old Vic, and I said, “So, did you get your photo?” It […]


  20. […] In 2014 he did the Ice Bucket challenge in honor of the Anthony Nolan Trust, which facilitated a stem cell transplant that saved his life. Armitage also interrupted his own curtain call to support this effort and spoke on behalf of it. My description of that day is here. […]


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