“Richard’s huge”: A few bullet points from Anna Madeley’s interview on Digital Theatre Plus

Anna Madeley, Richard Armitage, The Crucible

Anna Madeley describes one of the exercises she did with Richard Armitage to build intimacy and understand relational power while rehearsing The Crucible. Screencap.

[Edited for syntax]

This was an extremely interesting interview (more informative and provocative than the one with Yael Farber, in my opinion). Anna Madeley is tremendously lively and sweet (nothing at all like the character she played), and she’s definitely a hand-talker. At times the camera pulls away from her during the interview, I think because it gets distracting.

The interview starts with some general comments on who Elizabeth Proctor is, how she sees the world, and what motivates her. Madeley hits the point of the very heavy physical labor all the characters engage in. (She also says that the society of the play is much more accustomed to violence than ours; I found this a kind of questionable point; she seems to mean that the Proctors are afraid of Indians, have a gun and a whip in their house, and hit their kids. I guess “more” is always a matter of perspective.) She also thinks of Elizabeth as someone to whom integrity is crucial, someone who observes the world around her closely and in an “open hearted” way. Madeley uses the expression “open hearted” at least three times in the interview and at the end she sees this as the takeaway from the play. Madeley sees Elizabeth’s faith (both in the narrow, literal sense and in the larger, metaphorical sense of “hope,” I think) as the central motivating core for how she acts and reacts and sees the world.  Possibly the most interesting point she articulates that I hadn’t contemplated: that Elizabeth is very socially isolated out on the farm and that her children and husband (and her relationship with her hired woman, whoever that ends up being) are more important to her because of that.

Madeley also comments in some detail on Act Two, in Farber’s sense of seeing the most important pieces of that scene as the subtext, the things that are not said, as both Elizabeth and Proctor are trying extremely hard to recreate the pleasant, intimate moments of their family life even as the basis for that has been shaken — they need to move into the future rather than recreating the past but what they know how to do is to try to repeat their old patterns. She thinks Elizabeth is also conscious (and Madeley seems to smile at it when she recounts it) that Proctor has the potential to be led astray, that he has a tendency to want to “sweep things under the rug,” that he needs to be led, in a way, despite his innate power and social position, to realize what he has to do.

Potentially most interesting for fans of Richard Armitage will be Madeley’s comments on the rehearsal room and the exercises she and Armitage used to build their stage relationship. Much of their time was spent on exercises that were supposed to build intimacy. Here she mentions (as Farber did) pressing up against walls. They needed to create intimacy between the characters because they had to build up a past history for the relationship — the characters need to be acting in ways that reflect not only their current estrangement or distance, but also that reveal that in the past the marriage has worked. So they had to explore in exercises and in rehearsal not just the actual state of affairs, but consider what their normal level affection with each other would have been, to “try to be at one with one another.” They also had to look at the sexual level of their relationship — as she notes, she’s pregnant, so they are still having sex, but as she notes, “it’s not a happy one.”

Anna Madeley The Crucible

Anna Madeley gestures to explain that “Richard’s huge.” Screencap.

They had to consider Proctor’s discomfort with being looked at by her and maintaining eye contact. Madeley describes Elizabeth as such a clear observer that she can tell when he is lying. So they did the exercise of each holding one end of a single pencil and moving it around to see who is leading and who is following, and what it does to each of the characters to make eye contact in that situation. They also did exercises (unspecified) that tested out his tendency toward violence and his power over her. As she says, “Richard’s huge, so he has that as an actor anyway” and that you wonder what would happen if he decided to use it, or you decided to contest it, “there’s only one way that would end.” Finally, they had to explore in exercises their responses to her situation of not wanting to be affectionate in the ways that she had been before his adultery and how that would affect their interactions with each other.

Then she turned to the hair coverings as a question of vanity, gender borders, and who is in / outside of one’s intimate circle. Madeley would not want to veil all the time, but the experience helped her see that she needed not to judge that society from a feminist perspective. Covering and uncovering her hair was interesting and useful for her in joining the world of the play. She also grew to find it “exciting” when the girls uncovered their hair.

Two other observations that interested me:

First, Madeley feels that it’s Elizabeth’s lie (saying that he did not sleep with Abigail) that makes Proctor realize that she really does love him, because he never thought she would do it, and she’s willing to sacrifice the thing that is most important to her: “for that woman to lie for him, he must matter.”

Secondly, and this I found interesting because it’s a sort of midrash on what’s going through Elizabeth’s mind in Act Four (something many of us have puzzled about), and it’s not something I’d considered: Madeley’s reading is a bit of a Gift of the Magi kind of ending: Elizabeth lets go her iron grasp on the narrow version of her principles, and Proctor finds his. She feels that Elizabeth pushes even harder to “have an open heart,” and she gives this gift to Proctor, “to have peace in your being and know that you’ve behaved in a way that you’re really fine with.” What will stay with her most from the job (Yael was an amazing director, a lot will stay with her) is, “yeah, the open-heartedness.”

~ by Servetus on April 11, 2015.

20 Responses to ““Richard’s huge”: A few bullet points from Anna Madeley’s interview on Digital Theatre Plus”

  1. Thanks! I had seen another interview with she and Yael and Anna hardly said anything. I like hearing more about her and her thoughts about Elizabeth.


  2. Thank you once again for sharing some of these tidbits. Especially liked the discussion about exploring the potential for violence that RA had to inhabit, and her comments about that potential for power over her simply because of the size difference. Something I occasionally will muse about when I am looking at my Hubby: how intimidating he can be, when he wants to be. He’s never been even remotely threatening toward me, but I’ve noticed on rare occasions that he can transform and step into a bit of an alter-personality when he might have reason to feel protective- the first time I saw it was on our honeymoon when we were in Portland on a public transit after dark, and there were a few sketchy looking guys in with us that gave off a suspicious vibe. It was like Hubby expanded, and gave off his own vibe… they moved off. And I know RA can do this, too… he would be larger than life and so threatening on stage, then almost shrink into a far less sizeable, non-intimidating person when he did the stage door.


    • I thought those remarks were interesting, because I remember thinking when I read the interview where he says he occasionally gets “throw a chair” angry, that I wasn’t convinced — he’d been playing Porter around that time and it seemed like a convenient metaphor than a statement about himself. But when I saw him on stage in London, I very much had that feeling of “I would NOT want to be around this guy when he’s angry.” Not that I think he’d hit anyone but there is a lot of violent energy there somewhere that he can draw on for playing these kinds of roles.


      • yes, i thought it came out especially with Mary Warren and it made me really uncomfortable then, also because she was so good at conveying her angst; he really gave the feeling that a desperate Proctor was extremely volatile and physically threatening too…


  3. jholland. Loved what you had to say. Sometimes the men in our lives are not very different from animals when it comes to protecting their mates. Close to how a mother would behave in protecting her children. I heard something recently, can’t remember where, where men feared being laughed at by women, and women feared violence from men. Interesting.


  4. Thanks so much for sharing this! I really wish they’d release these interviews to the public. Really appreciate your taking the time to post the details for us unfortunate ones. ❤ What I’d give to be a fly on the wall during those rehearsal scenes, damn.


    • I wish they would, too. I am not in the crowd that despises them but I can see how one would get there. I know they are concerned about content piracy but this is a bit ridiculous — if they know fans are not going to be given access to these interviews, then why do they distribute these tantalizing tidbits? No way a fan is going to buy an institutional subscription (or at least not the average fan).


  5. Thank you so much for this resumé as well as that of Yael Farber’s interview. Both very interesting, indeed. Are there more coming?
    I’ve been impressed by Anna Madeley for a number of years. I’ve watched her in an episode of the crime series, Lewis, and in Selfridges. I would have loved to see her (and RA) live in TC. She’s a very capable actress, and very pretty too.


    • There are three more on the site — Jack Ellis, Natalie Gavin, Adrian Schiller. Have not watched them yet — this would normally be a lunchtime thing for me but I haven’t had a work-free lunch in about two weeks. I was wondering if one is still coming from Samantha Colley.


      • It would be really odd if they didn’t have an interview with Samantha Colley. Without Abigail, there wouldn’t be a Crucible.
        Remember, Serv, lunch time is for lunch…But I enjoy what you write:-) Would you be able to prepare resumes for the remaining?


        • lunchtime is for lunch — yeah, that was one of the points of taking this job for me. So my resentment on this issue is active and pretty severe at the moment.

          I’m definitely going to watch them — so if there’s something I find noteworthy I will certainly pass stuff on. (When do I not find this sort of thing noteworthy?)


  6. thanks so much for this, Elizabeth and AM really grew on me with each performance and the John/Elizabeth relationship was for me one of the richest aspects of the play. I thought they both did an amazing job of creating a living, believable relationship with all its complexities and all that with few words sometimes, more was said in gesture and looks than words. Very interesting to understand that they worked to hard at it in rehearsals and thought about so many aspects of it.
    great reading this, thanks for taking the time to write it down for us


  7. Thanks so much for sharing this – very interesting read!


  8. […] If Farber has seemed to speak about the political and social aspects of the work, and Armitage and Madeley seem to have focused on the individual, relational, and technical/artistic aspects of the work, […]


  9. Thanks for sharing! I missed seeing Anna’s interview. Do you have a link for her interview that you might share?


  10. […] “Richard’s huge”: A few bullet points from Anna Madeley’s interview for Digi…. Summary of material behind a pay wall. […]


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