Friday, August 29th: Armitage blurs, part 1

Continued from here. Thanks to everyone who waited two months for this and kept writing me to ask when it would appear. I admit that from the beginning it was exceptionally hard to write these, but also that my mood since the end of September made me wonder whether I wanted to continue. Nothing spectacular happens — guess what, Richard Armitage did not fall in love with me at the stage door and cart me off to a registry office to marry me! I know you’re disappointed — but I hope it will have been worth the wait, nonetheless.

This will probably come across a little differently than the earlier chapters, because I’ve had a lot of time to think about the last two days in London, which were just plain weird in terms of stuff that happened inside and outside of me, and in my own reactions to those things and things I found myself doing. I’ve had some time to process. I’m going to limit these posts to things I was thinking at the time and noted in my notebook — and then do a separate post about how I see this experience now, in the wake of coming the closest to concluding this blog that I ever have. (No worries; no need for reassurance; I am not fishing for compliments; I will keep writing as long as I feel like I have something to say and people around to say it to.)


050409_caffenero1In the morning, waking up after yet again not enough sleep, still feeling a little exhilarated, I manage to surmount my water fear and shower. LondonFriend emails to say she’s going to be late. I’m fine with that as it lets me catch up with the web, post some news — this was the day that someone said it had been decided to film The Crucible and the Old Vic denied the rumor again; Richard Hammarton posted some more music from the production — and I plan to journal. Although we originally had plans to eat at Ottolenghi in Islington and walk around (I own and adore his Jerusalem cookbook), LondonFriend announces another delay, and since after yesterday I’m not that excited about trekking around, when she announces another — she’s had a rough week at work — and I understand. Eventually I tell her that I’m going out to have a coffee and journal, and she should meet me at the café when she’s ready. Back to Caffè Nero.

Friday morning journalingshow4

Edited for grammar and mechanics, otherwise stream of consciousness notes from my journal. The storm from the anniversary of mom’s death hit and abated the day before, and I marked the day on blog with the image I most want to take away from that summer, but it did not figure in my journal for this day.


“The thing most on my mind after last night is the way Armitage genders Proctor, as it seems like a significant portion of the way in which he creates the character’s status. At times he gives Proctor a threatening physical energy so evident in proximity that I wonder it doesn’t explode the theater; at other times Proctor seems so fundamentally under threat that he might discorporate. It’s amazing what he gets about the physicality of the farmer — not just his strength but his ultimate vulnerability to the weather, the climate, even the cooperation of his friends — how the unceasing work that makes him powerful also signals his overinvestment and his inability see events as they are. He doesn’t know what to give other than what he has and Armitage gets this so right, it makes me wonder whether he grew up with farmers. So much of this — the gendering, the status, the power, the weakness — can be seen in Armitage’s hands and I wonder about the causal relationship in the feedback loop here — does his mood make his hands shake or clench, or does he shake or clench his hands in order to generate a mood? Contrast this to his hands as a piece of his stage door energy — entirely different. How does Richard Armitage the person become John Proctor the character — how are these people tied together? Armitage the actor has a stunning sexual magnetism that seems mostly absent from the guy I’ve observed at the stage door. It’s more a being-drawn-in than an arousal, at least in the moment, then when I’m home after the whole thing and lying in bed replaying the night’s show, an arousal thinking about it, tension and release, descends like a cloud. There’s a roughness, an imperfection, especially in his speech, but also an unforgettableness, I wish I could put my hands on it — maybe because he goes for it so hard every single night. Constantly shaking, shakes, shaken, shook.

Watching Armitage makes me forget how much I have disliked this play. I will go home and write about this again with clenched jaw, silent about all the facile moments and the horrible anachronistic text, and yet I will remember that there were moments so unsettling that I could do nothing but gasp and stare.

I am exhilarated and raw, raw and showered, probably too raw to have showered, every micron of my protective coating is gone now, either from traveling or the rain or the performances. The percussion of the shower still hurts. I wish I could live in my body better, but I can only do that effectively when I blank out the fact that my body exists and that has certain other negative consequences. How do we learn to inhabit our bodies? Where’s the line between awareness and unconsciousness — where’s the healthy way to forget who you are that day and become someone else you’ve constructed?

There’s this tension in Armitage’s body when he’s at work, his gestures are confrontational but also experimental, at times pleading. How did this boy become a man? I am convinced after three nights that Armitage the person is restrained, if not hesitant then certainly reserved, and I wonder from where he pulls Proctor the wild man every night. And the way the problem of his masculinity and virility and sexuality feeds into this transformation as it happens every night. Is it a jump — a cliff onto which he leaps every night, hoping to get there, clinging precariously? How much control does it all require, how much intended lack of control? The abseiling metaphor.

My resolve is broken. I should not have showered. My protective coating is gone and my anti-Armitage walls, my defense mechanisms are all at the end of their utility. I have no more distance. I know this is somewhat because I am not blogging about what’s actually happening at the moment, which is contributing to my nausea and discomfort. The not keeping food in me long enough to digest it is going to be start to be a problem soon. If I could just put this down somewhere in public, if I could force someone to see what I am seeing, maybe I’d feel some relief. I have to come clean, the water hasn’t done it, and yet I also needed that shield of dinge to keep the world at bay, and now it’s gone. Sudden, crazy need to write Richard Armitage an actual letter. I’m never going to write him a letter. I will write him a letter. What the fuck. Now, after all these years of writing as a faulty means of extricating myself even as the described always moves slightly outside the approximations of the descriptors I find, I’m fully, inextricably caught. Stuck, and I don’t know how I can ever get myself away without words to slice myself free, they’re all I’ve ever had, except I don’t have the blog this week and even if I did anyway there’s no time and so the missing words just pull me in further like some stupid reversed-polarity tractor beam and yet they’re the only way to get out. The self-hate I’ll have to live with if I do it. I won’t write him a letter. I will. He loves me, he loves me not. If I don’t write, I don’t know how I will leave the theater, how I will leave this experience, there’s already an unbearable quality to leaving the theater every night. I can already feel this experience slipping through my fingers and I still have three performances to attend.

And yet this feeling of vortex — these bizarre sightings the last two nights as he strides past me. I think, mornings, here I am waking, and common sense says, based on when and where he passes me, that he must be doing the same not all that far away. He’s been spotted eating breakfast at the Tate Modern café and I have intentionally not gone over there, for the risk, London vacation without any culture except this one play, my colleagues would blanche. For me, how could I not anticipate this possibility, more quease. More proximity than I wanted, no fourth wall, which astoundingly persists even at the stage door. This was not the sort of encounter I planned — I wanted to watch and not be implicated, and the implication isn’t the political problem of the play so much as it is my own swimming against the stream of my desire, my wish to be a different person, my desire to know — how does this work? how do you do this? how do you become someone other than who you are every single night and not become fatigued of it? How do you forget the performance, how does the performance not sicken you?

10734100_10152916871883993_3690982827865806839_n[Richard Armitage as John Proctor and Adrian Schiller as Reverend Hale in Act Two of The Crucible. Screencap.]

Last night, at the end of Act Two, from this new perspective, there’s a moment where I can see a sliver of eyes, when he’s hunched over the table, after Elizabeth has been arrested, just a sliver of his face, really, he pushes the tears out and his eyes are so despairing. At moments it can be hard to believe that he is playing the character only for the character and not for all of us. I thought briefly in Act Three, he can see us all watching him, and he takes a sort of mischievous satisfaction in the display of his glower, the position of his hands, the attention he draws simply by turning his head. He holds us all in the palm of his hand and he enjoys that power — even as in the character he makes himself weak. There’s a lack of self in the way the character is constructed that is contrasted in the apparent enjoyment of attention that it’s somehow not quite Armitage experiencing. I don’t know how to say this — Armitage the person, Armitage the actor, Proctor the character, it is almost as if there are three there. He knows he is masterful and he sucks energy from us by demonstrating it. Armitage the person worries about it, Armitage the actor knows it, Proctor the character is blissfully unconscious.

What seemed frivolous, this trip, now seems life changing. I need to get rid of all the crap and he must have made this step at some point as well, he must have realized he needed to eliminate non-essentials ruthlessly. How else to preserve that boundless energy, that readiness to jump, that lack of fear, that capacity to dance just one more step, to lean in, to wonder in public — all of it as an experiment. To accept that even when the stakes are high he has to behave as if they are not.

The spit that he projects from his face while speaking.

I wonder where or if Armitage’s Proctor pauses at all to think, what his contemplative moments are and what they’re like. For parts of Act Three, he’s observing but observing standing on the balls of his boots. Rage over thought, always in this character, a choice that’s impeccably Armitage, I think — the competition in the “G-d damns liars” exchange is rage-filled but intellectually superficial. About winning not about being right. It’s a weird undercutting of what I am guessing Miller thought that character was about but not an impossible one.

How much of his anger is vested in his neck, his shoulders, his huge trapezius, this is his body, Proctor’s anger is his anger. What are the things we can’t erase about ourselves, even when we are someone else?

The thing I most feared will not come to pass, the fourth wall is present at the stage door as well, I can meet Proctor as myself in the theater — the place where the real encounter occurs — or at the stage door I can encounter Richard Armitage and the shield is almost thicker there, whereas while I watch the play I feel the boundary thinning, dissolving as he draws us all to crane our necks toward him. I watched Lady Squid for a moment last night, following him everywhere, I am the same.

In the end, we want to be in the presence of beauty and art without knowing precisely why, and I feel like it’s immanence, even if I create it, even if I pay for access, pray for access. It makes me love, connects me to the universe but forget every moment of this experience for that one. It makes me want to receive and receive and receive and to defend that quality to receive. I’ve got to do more of that. Set the kind of boundaries I need. A particular kind of permeability filter that I can learn from him.

I can’t get the question of masculinity out of my mind, I have to look at that section of my notes on anima issues again.”


Eventually LondonFriend pops up at Caffè Nero, and she sits down for a coffee while I am writing the end of the above. She apologizes for not making our morning plans and I reiterate that I was really tired anyway. I feel that I’ve been a bit of a pill for this whole trip; she’s been in touch every day and I have been weirdly preoccupied with this play, which I could watch and again and again until I die, I think. I had planned to go to her workplace and have a falafel for lunch — as it’s been months since I’ve had one at this point — but I didn’t even make it that far. Theater, bed, café, journal, hotel, theater, bed. She asks me if I want to have lunch and we walk over to The Anchor & Hope, in The Cut. It was again drizzling.


20140829_142045At left: pint of Wells Bombardier. At right: in my continued quest to de-kosher my diet, a potted shrimps appetizer. This was another one of 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 center top better. Then again, I almost always love butter. Photo courtesy of LondonFriend — who ordered the three-course worker’s prix fixe lunch menu, and got a terrine.


It’s pleasant, but something like 2 before we make it to lunch, and my stomach is starting its all-evening trembling before the performance. I’m not ill, but everything I eat goes through me after about twenty minutes. LondonFriend tells me about what’s been happening at work, and her issues with management, and about two friends of hers who have decided to get married in the wake of the UK’s new same-sex marriage laws, and the role she’s taking in the wedding. Her world is so different mine that it’s always fascinating hearing about what’s going on in it.


20140829_145219My main course: ragout of lamb with polenta (although the menu might not have called it polenta, I forget). Despite the oily margins in this picture, this was truly excellent and not greasy at all given the amount of polenta, just the kind of hearty food I probably needed to at least try to eat. Photo courtesy of LondonFriend, who had a roasted mackerel with beetroot as the side — and discovered that she actually did like beetroot.


She asks me about how the play-watching has been going and I try to give her the bullet summary of the stuff that’s been happening, but it’s hard because my own impressions are so jumbled, even though I have been writing everything down. She’s seen the play herself twice by this point, and is planning to see it with me again that night. She’s less eager for details about the play than she is about the stage door and what I’ve done there and how I’ve reacted. She knows the whole story of Armitagemania and has been around for the last three years of it at close range, so our conversation involves a lot of insider baseball. It had been her contention earlier in the summer that the play might hit my religious buttons, and that is happening, but as I tell her, it’s more my energy and creativity questions that are being re-animated, provisionally answered, rephrased, opened up again.

I also raise with her the question that’s been bugging me since Wednesday night — is there a possibility that Richard Armitage is recognizing me? I say, nah, it’s just crazy. If, then just because I sat in that same seat for so long. Although I’m going to repeat the same seat again tonight as last night.

She looks at me and says nothing. Her silence is odd, because she’s always so convinced of everything she believes, which of course draws out my oppositionality — we spend a lot of time in our conversations arguing just vehemently enough that if you saw us, you might wonder if we were friends. She looks at me appraisingly, and then she says something about the effects of synchronicity, about how a person’s energy can make things happen.


20140829_153951Two scoops of prune ice cream. I loved this, too, and it had been a while since I’d seen something like it on a restaurant menu — probably since Germany in the summer of 2010. Photo courtesy of LondonFriend, who had a compote of greengages over buttermilk pudding. Both of us being Americans, we had to look up the greengages. I vaguely remembered the word from something literary I’d read, but couldn’t remember the referent and thought they were akin to gooseberries, which I used to eat a lot in Germany, but they are actually also a type of plum.


Five-ish, and my stomach is still not holding anything reliably, and I ask LondonFriend if she would mind going back to the hotel with me to change into my theater clothes and collect the tickets and chill out for a while before returning to the theater. We’re walking back toward the hotel direction, talking about the press coverage of the CEO of the corporation she works for, and are about to round a corner into an alley shortcut to my hotel entrance, when she’s almost knocked over by someone taking the corner from the other direction at a very high speed. A tall man with brown hair is all I see in the blur.

“Hey,” she says, and we stop.

She dashes back around the corner, and I wonder if she’s dropped something or wants to yell something at this rude guy who’s almost set her on her rear.

She comes back. “Greyish trousers, no socks, Converse style sneakers in a neutral color, grey jacket, backpack, big silver headphones?” she says.

“Yeah,” I say.

Beyond odd. My stomach clenches again and I look hopefully in the direction of the hotel.

“Wow, on the street, he really looks like a London creative, artsy kind of guy,” she observes. “Didn’t you recognize him?”

To part two of Friday.

~ by Servetus on November 30, 2014.

12 Responses to “Friday, August 29th: Armitage blurs, part 1”

  1. Did I just understand you correctly that your friend literally bumped into RA on the street?


  2. I’m really glad you’re continuing this! OTOH, cliffhanger! 😦


    • This was one of the weirdest moments of my life, tbh, but we saw him next in the theater, so no aftermath at this point.


  3. I feel you tremble. Thank you for the access ,Serv .
    PS: He bumped into your friend and no sorry? nothing?..hmmm


    • The last two days were pretty much non-stop shaky — in part because I couldn’t really keep any food in my body and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I had 3 hours of sleep after getting home the last time and then had to head out to the airport — and the second I got on the plane, I slept all the way to Chicago.


  4. Finally! Thank you. It’s very tense and dizzying…
    I love the passage about Armitage the person, Armitage the actor and Proctor the character. He still surprises me every time he retweets his own photos, for me it’s so unlike him as a person, I think. Is it Armitage the actor doing it? Knowing about the effect they will produce?
    Big question: he bumped into your friend and didn’t apologise???
    And on a lighter note: your post made me hungry 😉


    • The food was really excellent — best meal I had while there.

      This all really happened in the blink of an eye — it probably took you as long to read my description (or longer) than the incident took in real life.


  5. Danke für die Fortsetzung. 🙂

    Frage am Rande: Wie sehr leidest du unter normalen Umständen unter deiner Wasser-Phobie? Schlimm genug, dass du gerne etwas dagegen tätest?
    Falls ja: Das kannst du alleine therapieren. Du brauchst allerdings viel Geduld und Überwindung.
    Die Vorgehensweise ist, dass du dich dem Angst-Auslöser nach und nach immer mehr aussetzt. Du fängst also mit einer Situation an, die du zwar unangenehm findest, die aber noch keine völlige Panik auslöst. Das wiederholst du täglich, bis die Situation nicht mehr schlimm für dich ist. Dann steigerst du das Ganze. Und so weiter.
    Ein begeisterter Schwimmer wirst du sicherlich nie werden, aber die Panik solltest du mit der Methode und viel Geduld in den Griff bekommen können.


    • Ich habe es, seitdem ich 12 war (komplizierte Geschichte). 3 Jahre könnte ich mich weder baden noch duschen, habe mich nur so gewaschen. Seit dem ich 15/16 bin ist es sowie jetzt, ich kann mich meistens zwingen zu duschen, wenn ich einen gewissen Zeitraum davor und danach zur Selbstberuhigung einplanen kann, aber in Grenzsituationen / Stresssituationen ist es deutlich schlechter. Es wird wohl so weiter gehen, so ist es seit 30 Jahren, ich bin nicht froh darüber aber es ist nur in solchen Overload-Situationen unerträglich.


  6. […] remark is akin to something a bit more broadly diffused throughout his performance that I noted here: It’s not just that he knows how a farmer moves and is convincing on that score, but rather or […]


  7. […] from here. And with the ongoing caveat that I am now mostly just transcribing from my journal and talking […]


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