Richard Armitage crash: Thursday, August 28th, part 2

Continued from all the gnashing of teeth here. This piece is way less emotional, and is divided into two sections: first, description of performance that night; second, my experiences / impressions at the stage door.

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Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 11.06.53 PM

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Of all the performances I see, this is the one with the lowest general energy. I’m not saying “least strong,” because there was something to like in every one that I saw. At the same time, I feel like the cast is contributing to the problem, insofar as the play twice cuts off laughter that comes from the audience and then the audience gets the message that they shouldn’t laugh. I don’t believe this is intentional — it stems in part from the way that they begin Act One; they don’t take time to let the comic possibilities in the girls’ behavior as they discuss witchcraft with Parris resonate. And, of course, they are probably still concerned about the running time and about creating an intense atmosphere from the very beginning of the play.

Armitage, too, starts more quietly — his appearance on the stage is noticeably less physical than previous performances. This perspective also makes Act One more heavily Parris’ territory and lessens Abigail’s effect — she seems almost ineffectual here, although this may be a choice on Colley’s part. We also see less of Mr. Putnam’s malevolence because his face is so often away from us. The other thing we get from the 90 degree perspective shift is a better sense of the ongoing problem that Abigail presents. Quoting my notes directly:

This perspective offers the viewer a better sense of the ongoing problem that Abigail presents for Proctor. Emotionally, it’s clear that Proctor’s finished with Abby (and he communicates well that his involvement was always a superficial one), but tonight, in contrast to earlier nights, remnants of temptation seem to tinge his responses to her. Proctor insists vociferously on his version of his adultery, in which they “did not touch” — a statement that Armitage makes plausibly “true for Proctor” in his delivery, but which makes Abigail, grasping at him and causing him to have to detach her from him. Just as in previous performances, the end point of that long, episodic chase around the stage from its center, to the chairs at the right, to the table in front of the rear seats, where his physical posture suggests rape or a violent entry from the rear as much as it does rejection, to him scraping her off like a barnacle as she grasps, desperately, effectively, hopelessly, at his moving thighs, is this chair in front of the C18 seat I have tonight.

And now I see something I haven’t seen before. It is not as he has said before — Proctor is still tempted. Abigail kneels before him to deliver her lines, about how Proctor has enlightened her about the pretense of life in Salem, and proclaims, “You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!” The hierarchy of postures here — Proctor sitting, Abigail kneeling — is suggestive all on its own, without any elaboration. But they take it further. Both actors suddenly make this a more sexually laden moment than I’ve noticed from my perspective before, with Abigail grasping at the outsides of Proctor’s thighs and then stroking at the tops of them more gently, moving closer to the space between his legs — and Proctor simultaneously withdrawing, raising his head and lowering his chin to indicate resistance, and then rocking back on the chair in which he is trapped by Abigail’s advances Across his face, I see a number of expressions pass — his eyes widen, he lifts his chin, he tries to plaster himself back against the chair — and then in a split second, Abigail is truly between his legs, looking up at him, and he looks down at her — and his wide eyes, at first frightened, narrow just for a three heartbeats into a moment of unbridled lust — long enough for him to realize it and her to see it. Masterful, Armitage — for Proctor then reacts to his own reaction, returning to fear, and then disgust with himself, and then a shake of the head, just before Betty (Marama Corlett) begins to shake on the bed in renewed expression of her bewitchment. It’s almost as if Proctor and Abigail’s all-too-brief sexual energy broadcasts itself across the room, and Betty responds in sympathetic vibration — ending that intimate moment.

This is amazing and beautiful and I see it from the perspective of about eighteen inches away. (Question: How can they possibly do this? How can they act with all of us this close?) I feel like I am practically the third party in their encounter, and though watching Proctor wash in previous performances has not left me feeling uncomfortably voyeur-like, these seconds certainly do. I am aroused and horrified, all at once. This experience is unforgettable — to have sat this closely to Armitage while he makes Proctor lust, and then hate himself — but I wonder who else saw it. Me and five other audience members?

This staging is so intimate — and yet so fragmented. Everyone who sees it will have seen something different.

Interesting to me: the light falls on Armitage’s face differently, so the shadows across his brow say something different. From this perspective he appears dense, heavy-browed, but his eyes contrast much more effectively against it. The effect all the way through is much more dramatic, particularly in Act Two with Elizabeth, in which Proctor’s main note is anguish — the most emotionally effecting version of this part of the play I’ve seen thus far. Again, quoting:

The dominant feeling in Proctor’s entreaties at the beginning of Act Two is now neither hope, nor fatigue, nor anger — but fascinatingly: anguish. I thought this scene could not get more tearingly emotional than it was on Tuesday night, but Armitage has moved it an entirely different level. He opens the scene and the attempts at pleasing or propitiating Elizabeth are pained and turn quickly defensive. The physical level of his desire for Elizabeth (again — does this have something to do with his reactions to Abigail in the previous scene? is this an attempt at over-compensation?) in his glance, his lips, and especially his hands, which seem more aggressive now, is particularly visible, and this in turn seems to make her angrier than she’s been so far. And her rejection runs all through his body this time — his stiffness is quick and full of rage.

All of Act Two has notably more negative energy pouring off of Proctor — almost as if Proctor’s decided in advance that he will be damned — and the struggles with the various people are much more violent and desperate. I become worried he really will choke Mary Warren. The scene is also cleaner from this standpoint — its axis of movement is much, much clearer. Armitage’s performance in Act Two, however, reaches a summit for me this evening in the moment when he discovers that the commandment he has failed to name to Hale is the prohibition on adultery. The absolute horror and self-disgust on his face are frightening. Is this because his lust, for both Abigail and Elizabeth, is so much clearer in the earlier part of the scene, and thus more present in his own mind?

[This kicks off a series of reflections in my notes about how Armitage plays Proctor’s sexual aura — because make no mistake, Proctor is also sexy, even apart from his appearance — but I want to do a separate post on this topic, and on Armitage’s production of chemistry with Colley and Madeley.]

INTERVAL

Act Three gets the full effect of the different lighting and eye / eyebrow contrast across Armitage’s face, as Proctor looks much more actively prosecutorial and manipulative than he has until now. The micro-expressions on his face are thus vividly present in the exchange with Danforth, which is quite snappy tonight, reprising the energy from the previous evening with more balance on Proctor’s side. At some point, Proctor brings back his conflicted expression and I think on this evening, Proctor perceives much more quickly the danger that he’s in. His tenderness for his neighbors is especially apparent as well. I now have a different view on the Proctor / Abigail axis of interaction, as the two accuse each other. He can’t be seen at all from this point, but we see a much fuller range of facial expressions in response to his exchanges with Mary Warren, particularly once she escalates to the signing of the book.

But there are other moments in Act Three that I wish I could see more of, particularly as Proctor’s rage turns sadly against himself when he notes that G-d sees all. There are signs here of a more introspective Proctor — maybe because of the lower general energy of the performance? — and it seems that his breakdown at the end of Act Three reflects a greater helplessness than before, which is, oddly, more jarring than the out of control rage we’ve mostly seen up until now.

I think again in Act Four that the play just loses momentum at this point generally. But the 90 perspective shift appears to Proctor’s advantage again. His fury seems much more internal and less explosive, and the tone of the key lines about his name is heavier, clearer, and more regretful. He is actually crying this evening. Rather than pushing up into all the space around him toward the end, throughout this scene, Armitage’s physical energy is much more surrounded in his gut.

I wonder, for the umpteenth time, how someone like Armitage learns to inhabit his body.

[For another perspective on that evening, check out preoccupied’s description.]

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 2.27.24 AMServetus watches at the stage door and ruminates

The play ends, and LadySquid stands up and smiles and says, “It was nice to meet you.” She promises to maintain my confidentiality. I smile and point with my finger toward the exit, urging her to get on her way and get in that line. She picks up a piece of Proctor’s confession on her way out, but it looks like an usher wants it. Huh. Wonder what was up with that. She hands it back and departs.

I walk out myself, straightaway. By the time I find a place, I’m already about halfway down. I venture to walk up it, and one of the ushers asks me where I am going. I mention I want to talk to someone briefly at the head of the line and then I’ll come back. I find LadySquid and tell her that I’m further back, if her photo op doesn’t work out, she should grab me and we’ll try again. And then I settle in the line to watch. I don’t want anything tonight — just to see what happens. And to observe who, exactly, walks past me when Richard Armitage passes.

It occurs to me that this might finally be a good time to try to say something to the other actors in the play, who’ve been walking out of the performances largely unacknowledged on previous evenings — by me, as well. Some of their performances are landmarks. I’ve already talked to Schiller, yesterday, but it might be neat to exchange a word or two with some of the others, if they’re not in a hurry.

2738-fitandcrop-250x213[Harry Attwell. Source: Old Vic]

First, I find Harry Attwell — whose everyday, curious malevolence I praise — and some friends of his standing at the streetcorner near the stage door with him say, “He’s just like that in real life!” and I joke and say, “Oh, telling tales out of school! So it’s all typecasting then?” — because given the mood between Attwell and his friends it’s obvious he’s not at all like Mr. Putnam. He signs my program, asks my name, and says “Thank you, thanks for coming.” Next, I approach Marama Corlett, who is being monopolized by an autograph reseller with a score of pictures in hand for her to sign. When she finally tells him, “That’s enough,” I tell she really looks like’s possessed on that stage with all of those body movements, and she says, “Well, I used to be a dancer,” and I say, “I read that in the program, but it’s more than flexibility, you really act with your voice and your face in extremely frightening ways,” and she laughs and signs and then asks me my name. Then I see Sarah Niles, to whom I am not sure exactly what to say, as I’ve been conflicted about the staging of her scenes from the beginning, so I settle for, “You play that role with such physical expressiveness.” She also thanks me, signs, and then asks my name.

Finally, I catch Samantha Colley, who has walked straight down the line on previous nights and occasionally gotten a bit of a cheer or some applause. In person, she is as far away from her portrayal of Abigail Williams as I can possibly imagine a person being. I guess that’s why they call it acting. (One fan I know had a longer encounter with Colley that’s interesting to read for her informal perspective on playing the role, here.)

“You’ve got an amazing game on,” I say, “I’ve seen this four times now, and now I’m starting to wonder each night, will Abigail be crazy tonight, or manipulative, or both?”

She says, “I have to think about it every night, but Abigail loves Proctor and that influences everything, too.”

2722-fitandcrop-250x213“It’s really effective, the way you play that combination,” I say, “you’ve definitely got me coming and going, wondering how it will work out each time!” She thanks me, signs the program, and then asks my name.

[Samantha Colley. Source: Old Vic]

I’d really like to talk to Jack Ellis and Natalie Gavin, but I notice that hopping in and out of the line is making the people next to me increasingly nervous, so I stop. Ellis exits and leaves, briskly, via the side street, and I don’t see Natalie Gavin that night. Thinking about it — what I really want from these people is not an autograph, but rather a conversation. Maybe even ten minutes would do. The autograph is merely a pretext to ask them to stop and to try to thank them and find a compliment slightly more exact than “You were wonderful tonight.” That was my reaction to Schiller, a day earlier: I wanted to ask him how he came to that view of the character. But it’s too weighty a conversation for that atmosphere. I am still caught in the seriousness of what I’ve just seen, but what they have agreed to give me for the price of the ticket — their best performance — is now delivered. Even if it might be lingering for them as well, I’m sure they don’t want to talk about that with a stranger. The way this play in particular is staged, and the fact that I’ve sat in the front row four times, also means that I have a perhaps odd and certainly misplaced sense of closeness to the characters. After sitting in their living room for so long, I feel like I know them and should be able to interview them. Or something.

Moreover, I continue to muse, there’s a conflation or a tension between wanting the actors to know their work was being watched and taken seriously, and wanting them to see me as the person who is taking them seriously. I want them to know that many people were paying attention, and that this isn’t just all about Armitage, even for many of his most intense fans, though those are the majority of the people who will take the time to stand at the stage door. It’s like the different between you are being watched, and see, in this whole ocean of fans, I was watching you. The first valorizes them; the second, me. I noticed that even though I didn’t ask for a specific dedication in any autograph, they all asked me my name. Hmmm, maybe they were signaling to me: I do see you. (Transcribing this three weeks later I am still confused on this question.)

london-the-crucible-experience-L-Amh1q5[Marama Corlett. Source: Old Vic]

At the same time, I wonder: why is it okay to stop an actor to ask for his/her autograph, but not to ask a question or to say more than two lines about his/her work, which is arguably more important both of us? And why do I feel differently about approaching the other actors than I do about waiting to see Armitage? It occurs to me that the other actors start being people for me when they appear at the stage door, in a way that Armitage doesn’t quite, because I have few or no preconceptions about them; I find myself thinking, when one of the women who plays a bewitched girl walks past, that I shouldn’t impose upon her. And, I concede, it’s late. I rarely wanted to talk to students after lecture, either; I wanted to sit down and have a Coke and discharge the tension in my body.

I wonder, idly, flipping through the program and catching some details of these folks’ CVs, which are mostly long and distinguished, whether this was the sort of actor Armitage aspired to be. How ambitious was he from the beginning? Did the fact that he clearly has the body and looks of the lead shut a lot of these possibilities off to him?

2724-fitandcrop-250x213[Sarah Niles. Source: Old Vic]

Finally — the stage door opens for the big guy himself and I set aside the questions for the moment. There’s an audible lift in both the mood, and the tension, among those of us waiting. Flashes go off. I see him pull his shoulders back and smile his mysterious, close-mouthed smile; I see him lean forward and put an arm around a fan’s shoulders and widen his eyes. I see him do both of those things repeatedly, although I can’t really see how the fans are reacting from this point.

Armitage gets closer to us, as he walks down the line of waiters. He’s now about seven feet away, and a young woman who’s standing there with her boyfriend asks him for a picture. I hear him say, “of course,” and he poses with her, his arm around her waist. The flash goes, and she immediately separates herself from and starts making noises like she might be hyperventilating. We’re all a bit stunned by the vehemence of her reaction, and Armitage steps back quickly and laughs in astonishment — and then, she does, too. As he gets closer, I catch the rhythm of his routine. He says “yes” and “of course” basically all the time and sometimes “where’s your camera.”

This is a smart strategy, although I don’t know that he’s the one who’s come up with it. He’s not actually refusing anyone or causing concrete disappointment himself, so he doesn’t have to listen to repeated requests or complaints, but whether the request-maker is actually in position for the photo op is not something he is concerned about after he assents — wisely, as he’s not in control of it. So if people don’t 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 stands, moving his body only very slightly, not usually smiling a full smile — advantageous whatever his motivation because it means his eyes are less likely to be closed in the resulting photo. He stands up straight, pulls back, leans in, leans right, leans left — and he has his hand out with the sharpie all the time, so that as he moves down the row, a circle of fans can move with him and he leans his head over and focuses only on the object he’s on this night, rapidly initialing.

stage-door-capIt’s a fascinating dynamic. As we learn a few days later he feels dazed at the stage door, still in the presence or guise of Proctor, but that’s not the entire story I see playing out here. First, what he is doing may be automatic or reactive, but it also requires a significant degree of coordination. He clearly uses the energy of the fans around him to navigate the situation and move down the line, with the assistance of the security people. He knows we are going to say positive things and make brief requests, so “Yes” and “Thank you / Bless you” are the only responses he really needs to make. More direct questions can easily be understood as lost in the shuffle and the smile — dazed, perhaps, but also sweet, a palimpsest of his public “shy guy” demeanor of years ago — makes everything good. Every now and then he does respond to a question, but it’s always with two or three words. Most of what he does is serves as a mirror of the fan mood. And he’s clearly caught on that looking people right in the eyes conveys charisma, even if I wonder exactly what he’s seeing. Second, and here I hate to quibble with him — but this isn’t John Proctor we’re seeing, even if Proctor’s feelings and thoughts may still be in his mind. This gets to Armitage’s physical presence as Armitage.

He gets to me and there’s a crush of people standing in front of me wanting autographs, and as he pauses for a moment, I finally have the chance to observe him somewhat more closely. The previous two nights I got glimpses and impressions, but tonight, I can really look.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 3.27.49 PM[my pic, though actually Friday, I believe]

In person, Richard Armitage is definitely tall but to six-inches-shorter me, he — paradoxically — doesn’t at all convey the presence of height. John Proctor’s notional bulk, not just his costume but the way he takes up space, and his entire vibe, are completely absent. Other people who’ve seen him in person have told me that in certain settings Armitage can appear almost slight or fragile, and although I wouldn’t call him fragile — his forearms flex as he signs — I see now what they mean by slight. The glimpses and impressions from the previous nights include the profile, the beautiful nose, the smile, the flash of his teeth — and, as I think of it, the fact that he’s usually slightly tilted, interacting with shorter people.

But as I now stand within a foot of Richard Armitage (not John Proctor) for the third night in a row, I get the impression of someone who is looking at me face to face, not down on me. Proctor’s shoulders are broad; Armitage’s shoulders are relaxed. Proctor is bulky; Armitage is surprisingly thin (and seeing him this way, I wonder how much bulk the beard is adding to his face). Proctor looks at people directly; Armitage seems to be simultaneously dipping his head and looking up at people from under his eyebrows. Proctor never smiles until he kisses his wife; Armitage has an absent-minded smile or smirk on his face, which he modifies as flashes go off. Sometimes one gets the sense that an onlooker gets through because Armitage’s eyebrow goes up — something Proctor never does or at least not in that way. Proctor stands in his own center of gravity; Armitage appears to be leaning on his hips.

As this is physically impossible — a body takes up a certain amount of space — the other thing that hits me is that Armitage’s demeanor is definitely what I’d call mild-mannered or almost apologetic. He gives off the vibe of making-himself-small. When I approached him the first night for a picture, all I could see was the demi-god with the huge aura, and I did feel small. Tonight, I’m not projecting his own charisma back at him — I’m trying to see him without it — and what I perceive is an accommodating fellow with almost no aura of his own at all. I can see how he would disappear into a crowd without trying at all. Is it really possible for someone to have no presence? That’s almost what he seems to imply here.

He and the circle of autograph seekers now move past me, and I leave the line, loop around the street, and put myself at the end of it again to see if I can notice anything else. I try to take a few pictures, but my cheap camera and photography skills are not up to this kind of lighting — the flash always fixes on an intermediate point. A lesson in itself.

As he approaches again, maybe ten feet away or so again now, I see LadySquid with a euphoric smile on her face, walking down the line of waiting fans toward me.

“Did you get it?” I ask.

She shows me the picture. She says something astonishing, which I won’t repeat here, in case she doesn’t want the statement attributed to her in future. I give her a sort of emphatic side hug because she is really beside herself with joy. Wow, I really am beside myself, too.

“See you tomorrow,” she says, “thanks for waiting to see what happened,” and wanders off in the direction of the Tube, her pace suggesting that she’s a little dazed by the whole thing. (The next day, she’ll send me a Twitter DM apologizing for the abrupt departure, but I didn’t mind — I certainly understood her mood.)

Armitage passes me again, still with a group of fans in a half circle around him, and this time I’m so close to the end of the line that I simply turn. He signs a few more — and then he’s at the end. He and the security guys stride resolutely back to the stage door, with fans still standing there, talking, looking at their cameras, tucking autographed items into bags.

The whole episode after Armitage emerges lasts well under fifteen minutes. Twelve, perhaps. It’s taken me a dozen times as long to write this section of the post as it did for him to meet all the fans.

***

Leaving, I cross the street, where a fan is standing on the corner to The Cut, looking over at the stage door, and I smile at her.

“Did you get what you wanted?” I ask.

A few sentences tumble out of her. I never had any instruction in spoken Italian, but I catch that she got something the previous night (ieri seraieri must be somehow related to ayer in Spanish), that she thinks he’s handsome (bello — this may need no translation), and either that she’s tired or believes he’s tired (I can’t catch if she’s saying stanca or stanco).

“Oh, good,” I say, very lamely, and smile and say good night and walk off, leaving her there.

Now, I’m really tired. Happier, but exhausted. Walking back to the hotel as I was last night, about the same tempo as last night. Trying with not much success to have the sensible guard up for a late night London street.

This time, I see him as he crosses the street, jaywalking, and ends up on my side of it maybe 15 feet in front of me, in stage door clothing plus the backpack and those very large headphones. Same speedy, loping gait, same long strides, same determination to get wherever he’s going.

Me, too. We all want to get where we’re going.

At the hotel, I check my appetite and discover that I’d really like to eat! After writing down my notes, logging on, and posting, I manage to do it, too. I drop LondonFriend a note and delay our meetup the next morning by an hour, and since she’s still awake, she agrees. It’s still after 3:30 — but I am more grateful when sleep comes than I’ve been in quite a while.

***

To August 29, part 1

~ by Servetus on September 15, 2014.

46 Responses to “Richard Armitage crash: Thursday, August 28th, part 2”

  1. […] to August 28th, part 2. […]

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  2. I am utterly amazed at your recall. Thank you again for sharing your experience with us. I’m very happy your day ended pleasantly and you finally had an appetite 🙂

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  3. Thak you,Servetus 🙂

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  4. I love to just watch people and observe how they interact w/each other, so I especially enjoyed this installment. the talk of mirroring, him in relation to the fans mood around him and then you in your reaction to him on diff’t nights, I found particularly insightful. but my favorite parts of your observations are the times that you’ve seen him leaving the theatre.

    I’m a big fan of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”. in the movie version, after Christ has been crucified, the actors all revert back to their civilian selves as they get on the bus to leave the filming location but the actor that portrays Jesus is not among them. one by one they look back to the hill where he was crucified, lamenting all that had happened and leaving it (and him?) behind. that scene is what I think of when you describe Richard leaving the theatre, on his way to wherever it is that he is going; I wonder if he’s able to revert back to his civilian self, taking it all off like a costume, or if he is lamenting the part of himself that he’s leaving behind :/

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    • That’s a really great question and not one that I have any data to answer. I wonder, too, because seeing him doing it seven times in a row in a very limited space of time, I wonder how he can leave the character at all. I can imagine very well his “monk like” existence — compressing the places he goes, the clothes he wears, etc., to concentrate. (That is what I would do.) But then again he did all that ITS publicity this summer, ADR for Urban, and I suspect, ADR for BOTFA as well. I wonder how he knows who he is at the end of the day.

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  5. As always, in awe of your eye for detail and your recall of nuances from performance to performance. Can’t wait for your post on the chemistry aspect!
    I was startled every time I saw Richard at the Stage Door. He can be immense on stage, yet seemed so lean and low key when he appeared outside. The frilled lizard of the acting world. lol

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    • yeah, I think more people would have been freaked out by it if the general mood at that SD weren’t so charged. There’s a lot of electricity on the stage provided by the actors but just as much outside provided by the people waiting. If there were an infrared camera it would show radiation off the charts.

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  6. Thanks once again for sharing your recollections Serv’ I love reading them.

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  7. I’ve been reading along with great interest – your attention to detail and ability to be immediate astound and delight me. You have observed things that I have seen and wondered about- often with some frustration as they are traits that don’t fit the RA persona as defined by the fandom ( I want to say ‘trope’ but that’s not quite right).

    I was particularly drawn to your statement ‘ I can see how he would disappear into a crowd’ – that was my overwhelming thought when I saw him in Sydney. I had always been sceptical when he stated he didn’t get recognised in public- how could someone so tall and beautiful NOT be noticed. But as he stepped off the stage in Sydney, he seemed to switch something off and he became so normal. He didn’t look fragile to me then ( although perhaps he was bigger due to the Thorin role) but he didn’t seem large either- just a normal guy who looked slightly flustered because he couldn’t find his way out of the theatre.

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    • Always good to have observations confirmed — and questioned, in case I misunderstood.

      I think, to put it rather too broadly, that he is a very different person on many levels than fans have thought him to be for some time and part of the issue has been just this fitting together of contradictory pieces. One thing that I’d been wondering earlier in the summer, before I saw the play, is if the process of doing different roles is not jarring in the sense that I have found it, but rather therapeutic, because one comes to look at the self on some level as temporary. If that were the case, I could use a big shot of that. Not seeing anything as permanent but also not being too worried about it.

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  8. Thank you for sharing all this. It is absolutely fascinating to read. One might think you analyse him to the point of “stalking”, but none of what you share here is something the rest of us have not wondered or would like to know. By the way, I must be one of the five members of the audience during The Crucible who also got the sexual content you talk about. It is fascinating how much a piece of art like this play can transmit to the rest of us who watch from a distance, be it close or far. It speaks wonders for the talent of ALL involved in its creation, production and delivery. Unforgettable!

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  9. Thanks for putting more detail on the impression that I also had of him – the deflecting and reflecting of the attention of his well-wishers at the stage door.
    I am not sure whether I understand you correctly – do you think this is a “rehearsed” sort of attitude, something that he practiced and settled on in conjunction with a PR advisor? I’d like to think that he is more spontaneous than that, and less calculating, of course, but OTOH it makes perfect sense to adopt this kind of practice for the SD process. Especially as most attendees would not really grasp the deliberte nature of it, anyway, as they tend to be there only once.

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    • Well, you know, I am a both/and girl, and by the time I observed this stage door it had been going on for seven weeks. I think it is neither unconscious behavior nor rehearsed in advance, but rather the result of his own responses to things he knows and believes when he puts himself in the situation — and then lets what happen happen. That is the result of things he must realize as an actor, but I don’t think he’s performing it in the same sense that he performs Proctor, for instance. A nightly improv, if you will, and one that by the time I was there was well in place. I think he is aware of certain parameters — things he has to do in this setting — many of them for his own safety. I hypothesize that he also sets up safeguards for himself; I am guessing that the sudden abrupt return to the theater, sometimes in the middle of the line, is not in response to anything that fans do (except on that last night) but rather a response to a cue he’s asked the security people to give him, that the time he or they want to allot to this activity has expired. I think he is genuinely tired after that performance, and also genuinely grateful for the audience’s support of the production, and also really desires to show his gratitude. I think he is aware he doesn’t have to give all that much personally in order for most people to be happy — and knows that he can’t really give much more anyway. All of those things play into what happens there, and I think the fact that it works is testified to by the many different impressions that fans report after participating. An improv that works, even as we’re aware on some level that it is an improv.

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  10. Abigail and Proctor, ahhhh but it was always there that tension! 🙂 I’m sad to say i was never close enough to see it across his face, but his body language spoke volumes! Also there are some things which seen from afar are in a way more evident, especially in the choreography. ( I do wonder by the way how they will manage to capture that, its obviously done to be seen from afar too, it’s a violent dance but i don’t think there were cameras that afar away, that act 2 scene between the 2 and the hysteria and Proctors motions in act 3 are special seen from farther away because it is mesmerisingly choreographed. That flying hair of the girls in all those shocking colours after the muted darks, it’s very earthy to say the least 🙂 )
    Back to act 1, that dance is something else and suggestive of something else, very clearly. I always felt from the first performance already that his desire for Abby had not died, he even admits to her he may look up at her window, but then says he will cut his hand before he touches her again. It’s a conscious decision, not an emotional one in a way, the shreds of desire are what i think makes him so angry, so determine to reject her. He hates his own weakness.

    The way he slides on and off him almost is so well done and the way she clings to his legs. The way the whole thing starts wild with his rejects and then gradually slows down well because he falters, because she keeps talking about it and it softens him. If there was no temptation, nothing within him, he’d walk away to the other end of the room, not sit down when she clings to his legs and stays put with her there. How close he is to temptation, who knows, probably as you so wonderfully put it on some evenings closer than others but it’s palpable and to me felt always intentional from a production point of view. I think we’re absolutely meant to see this passionate side of him. Wonderful to know that it wasn’t just in the stance and tension of his body on that chair but also in his face 🙂

    On the name + autograph, erm that is actually the common curtsey of signing, of course when time and circumstances allow 🙂 It’s sort of accepted that people want it to be dedicated to them, it;s a little gift or acknowledgement from signer to receiver 🙂 But it can’t be done for 150 people as it would be interminable and the fingers of the person doing that every night would fall off! But in idea the autograph is a gift from one person to another, naturally dedicated 🙂

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    • then why did they ask AFTER they signed?

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    • we’re skating into problematic interpretative territory here, so I feel the need to mention — the fact that I say I saw something, or even ask whether others saw it as well, or doubt that they might have, is absolutely not an implication that whatever I saw was invisible in other ways from other perspectives or shown in different ways. It is indubitably the case that there are certain moments of this play that could only be seen from up close and from certain positions. The expression on Proctor’s face when Abigail is kneeling in front of him is one of them. At that point you can only see his face from either the stage left stalls or the stage right side of the rear seats — the back of his head faces the front stalls and he is an entire stage away from the stage right seats (so maybe, if you had better than normal vision or binoculars, you could see the microexpressions). You might also see it, if you were intentionally looking down from the “restricted view” seats that are right above that side of the stage, or perhaps, from the parallel seats on the other side. But otherwise you won’t see the physical aspect of that moment in much detail. That doesn’t mean you won’t notice it — but you will not see that specific thing. Those are two different claims.

      Note that I also say in these remarks when I know something is going on but the relevant actor’s back is to me, i.e., there are things that I can know without seeing them up close . So my question doesn’t mean, and I never say anywhere in these comments that other people couldn’t have noticed other aspects of them from elsewhere, or that the same thing isn’t signaled on other levels. Part of the point of writing the reviews is that I do think there were elements of the play that were communicated more clearly from particular perspectives because of things like lighting and how the scenes were blocked. If what you’re interested in, for instance, is the level or sentiment of Proctor’s religion — that theme was best viewed from a particular point (which I’ll get to when I get to Saturday).

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      • crossed cables sorry, happens when i write too much 😉 all i meant to do is say i had the same impression watching the scene and i found the idea interesting. I’m genuinely fascinated by the fact that he manages to communicate so complexly, i mean his signalling with the whole of him, body, facial expressions, everything. I’m glad you are writing about all these details because this way i can complete the picture i had which was sadly only partial due to my seats. I wished i could have circled the stage to see everything from every angle! and see all these little details, but it would have been impossible, also because some of these details changes every night 🙂 It will be interesting to see how much they can give us of it in a video.
        The round had the fabulous advantage of bringing us all closer to the actions but it had the disadvantage that wherever you sat some things were invisible due to physical movement. So looking forward to reading about more things.

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        • This is why I wish more people would write very detailed stuff (like yours) because I think it will be the only way to put this play back together. I really can’t wait for the download, but that will very much be a handful of people’s take on what they wanted the play to be. Which is fine, if it’s Farber, but that wasn’t necessarily what people saw every night.

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          • yes, thanks to the marvellous and infinitely creative Richard nothing will be like the live thing, because he was never the same, but i hope they put enough work in the edit to capture as much as possible of his versatility from the 3 performances they got. we’ll have to wait and see. I wonder if he drives directors mad with this? Does anyone try to capture all of him and what he does and projects? seems impossible to me after seeing him live..

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            • probably what comes closest is Jackson’s “extended take” thing — where they just film every thing they can and make the actors do as many takes as they can handle. Even so, they still select from what is going on to create a final impression.

              One thing that I really appreciated about the live theater aspect is that I could see him change it up — a little like multiple takes.

              Liked by 1 person

  11. Our second visit to see the Crucible was interesting because the fight he had with Abigail, where he throws her face down on the table over the Bible, the first time we saw it he growls ” Read it! Read what it says. ‘thou shalt not bear false witness!” ( exactly what Abigail is doing.) But the SECOND time we saw it he does exactly the same actions but was noticeably pressed MUCH harder against her, and whether the ‘heat’ of that action distracted him… he didn’t say the lines, but then the next set of actions followed and the dialogue continued. Richard said of the play that certain scenes were’hot’ – almost too hot for him at times.. I guess the sexuality of that took his words away!

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    • Interesting — because the line you cite is not in the original script of the play (they may have been using some variant script). I wonder if this has anything to do with the incident with the Bible hitting someone in the audience (which we didn’t see, either — no point at which anyone would have been throwing a book that could have gotten out of control).

      thanks for the comment and welcome.

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  12. […] behaved according to the unwritten script. (Servetus described it in detail in a recent post here. […]

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  13. Great insight on the ‘real’ stagedoor Armitage!
    What a shame you couldn’t talk to Jack Ellis, he is such a nice guy!

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  14. […] from here. Thanks to everyone who waited two months for this and kept writing me to ask when it would appear. […]

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  15. […] no matter how I feel about them (at that point, much better about the autograph than the photo). As on the previous night, I just want to see and understand what is going on, after so many nights of reading about it, and […]

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