Ali Gayler adds a new piece to our knowledge of Richard Armitage’s stage work before North & South
Here is a link to the Actors Centre’s old productions page (it has removed this page, so it’s now located at the Internet Archive), which doesn’t cite this particular production. You will see Armitage listed there as playing in Annie Lee (this is one of his known points of contact with Annabel Capper). Flacks apparently regularly does workshops and master classes for the Actors Centre.
Let me say that this type of story makes me think well of Armitage.
David Ives is a respected experimental / contemporary playwright. Here’s a plot summary of Universal Language (1993). Armitage would have played Don Finninneganegan, and Ali would have played Dawn di Vito, and they do kiss at the end. It sounds like a sweet play, actually.
My other question goes as follows: Flacks’ calling card is a workshop she offers, “Acting with Passion,” which is about how to produce emotion on demand. I wonder if this is the instructor Armitage worked with who helped him with a breakthrough cited in his early press. This is one of my favorite quotes ever from Armitage on Armitage:
I had a period of 18 months when I wasn’t acting. I worked at a laser gun place and took front-of-house jobs in the theatre. I wasn’t clinically depressed but I was down. But I’d go to drama classes to make sure I was keeping my skill going. I finally hit something real inside me in one of those classes. I’d had little glimmers before but then in one class with an American director I just hit something. From that moment on I was kind of fearless because I knew I had it in me. I knew I had the instrument. I know it’s a cliché but it was like a drug. It was like: ‘I want to know what that feels like again because I can’t do that in my real life. I can’t cry like that because it’s not civilised.’ That’s when I thought it was really worth it.
Laying aside that I don’t think his period of joblessness was eighteen months long, I acknowledge it might have seemed that way. Previously I had speculated that this director might have been Di Trevis, but she is not American. Flacks is American (b. Daytona Beach, 1943), so that piece would fit. The other way to date this is that Armitage has given us another vague piece of information about his job at the laser gun place, in this interview, where he terms it “after drama school.” If “after drama school” means before the Royal Shakespeare Company, however, then Flacks’ workshop wouldn’t fit, because if it coincided with Annie Lee, it seems likely to have taken place in 2002. But if we consider that Armitage finished at LAMDA in 1998 and was in three films that were shown that year (Star Wars, This Year’s Love, and Cleopatra), plus The Four Alice Bakers in Birmingham, and had joined the RSC Macbeth in 1999, a better phase for the “dry period” is probably after he finished with the RSC — which would make this workshop a candidate for that experience. It’s not fair to say he wasn’t acting, because the RSC’s Duchess of Malfi ran into 2001 and we know he did two plays in 2002. But the period after mid-2001 until he began appearing in TV shows after 2003 was very likely the period of most sparse work in his career that we are aware of.
I never want to ask people these questions, so I am grateful that rashisama1 did!