That was a fascinating interview #richardarmitage

Great insights. It should be up as a podcast soon. In particular: Armitage’s discussion of class (clear he perceives that somewhat differently from the Americans), politics, British history. Less talk about process here (which I also really enjoy) but more about his perception of what is going on in the play, esp insight that Rose was suppose to fulfill her parents’ ambitions.

Also: hearing him interact with his costars.

More of this stuff, please. More, please!

~ by Servetus on October 18, 2016.

24 Responses to “That was a fascinating interview #richardarmitage”

  1. I loved this interview. As much as funny Richard makes me happy, I think after all the MF silliness, this was a delightful change. It was just what a public radio interview should be. Serious, insightful, discussion of the play with differing views on generational, social, and cultural issues. Richard obviously sees class differently than Amy or Zoe. As big a divide as there is financially here, it is possible to move up. I know I’ve never lived in the U.K., but I perceive that even if you are able to shift financially, being accepted as a member of a class you weren’t born to is really not going to happen. (Unless you’re the future queen.) No class of nuevo riche, or reality stars there. I think he feels acutely, that although he may have professional success, and financial security that affords him a privileged life, and the opportunity to take care of his parents, and thank them for the sacrifices they made for him, he is still a bloke from Leicester. Maybe someday, the queen will recognize him. Mum and Dad would be so proud, even better than meeting Wills.

    • I thought — and I wonder how many American viewers will catch this — that he underlined the cultural sentiment in England that “middle class” means something really different than it does in the US. He describes the characters as having moved into the lower middle class, which is accurate for England, but possibly going to seem odd to a lot of American viewers who tend to see wealth as the primary determiner of social status.

      • Right, class there is deeply entrenched. Making money is the least of it. If you, your parents… haven’t gone to the right schools, been in the right circles for many years, you are not making it to higher levels, you just have a bigger house. Middle-class, even lower middle-class here means you’re doing really well. Add to that the fake wealth of credit in this country, McMansions, luxury cars even for the kids, vacations, clothes…that people really don’t have the money for, skews the class perception here so that it seems that the different levels of middle-class are doing much better than they actually are.

        • I also don’t think that it’s widely known here, that they were still suffering effects of the war well into the 60’s. It’s impossible to understand the recovery, and rebuilding of completely demolished areas had to take place, when you live on the other side of the ocean where there was no damage, save Pearl Harbor and Alaska. How can people understand the feeling of sacrifice, and rationing into the 60’s, when it basically ended a generation earlier here. I think these things are what keep Americans from really getting the undercurrents far more than Vietnam.

          • Also generational “space” for young people created by the scores of deaths in both world wars — gave them more room for action.

    • Yes, the way he repeated “class” and the inflection of his voice was telling.
      Whilst my home country Germany is remarkably classless, the class system in Britain is alive and kicking. But I for my part don’t really understand why it matters so much to Brits which class you belong to. As long as I have the financial means to look after myself and my family, how does it matter if I’m only middle-class or lower middle-class? My parents were able to afford me a good education and I will hopefully be able to provide the same for my children. We can afford healthcare, holidays and a few little luxuries now and then. Is that not enough? Where does this need for validation from the upper class stem from? Maybe having grown up in Germany and never wanting for anything (without being stupidly spoilt though!) I am unable to understand this acute class consciousness of the British. I don’t feel class has any influence in my life in London and my opportunities.

      • Well, I would say there is definitely a class consciousness in Germany; it’s just that it’s not based so superficially on income as it is in the US. But education and speech are tremendously important, and even within the educational elite and church circles, there are definitely class markers that relate to family heritage. I found it striking in Germany (sitting in on scholarship interviews for school exchanges) how pronounced the belief was in parents who had a Hauptschule or Realschule Abschluß that Gymnasium was not appropriate for their at times very bright and curious children. Something similar happens in England with regard to university entrance, apparently:

        I think what class marks in England (and this has been demonstrated time and time again) is opportunity and perception of opportunity. I thought it was interesting that Armitage stepped back from that question about grammar schools — I think he knows very well why that discussion is going on again now and just doesn’t want to say. As a foreigner, one stands outside the rules that apply to insiders. No one would criticize an American of a German for failing to know or follow this kind of rule, for instance:

        • Interesting points. What you said about parents not having gone to a Gymnasium feeling their children may not be suited for the Gymnasium is true. I think they feel university is out of their reach and that the children has better finish school early and do a “Lehre”.
          However, I never feel that education and speech are highly valued in Germany. The size of your car ( very important here!!) and house and how many times a year you go on holiday is what people judge you by mostly. Maybe it depends on where in Germany one lives? I grew up in Heidelberg (very renowned university!) and still feel material wealth is key to determining social status.

          Yes, I’m aware of both articles you cited. I meant to include in my comment that certain jobs and colleges are prejudiced as to class, but didn’t as my post was very long already! 😝

          For me as a scientist, not having gone to Oxbridge did not preclude me from getting the job I wanted and the same applies to my colleagues. For us, aptitude is the only thing we’re selected for. Interestingly, I work for a US company but I know the same hiring criteria apply to the British companies in my branch.

          • The one thing that relegated you right to the lowest social stratum in Germany was being a Gastarbeiter. In that setting, there was a distinct class divide, namely between foreigners and Germans. But otherwise I perceive the hierarchy as quite flat, especially compared with Britain.

            • I would say it’s different than Britain — I don’t know about flatter. The OECD and PISA studies about social rise of Gastarbeiter seem to show that there’s a huge obstacle to “getting out” for the children of non-Germans, and I know from personal experience that there are definitely class issued involved there. We had huge issues with the synagogue’s kids — bright children of Russian immigrants whose parents were all highly educated — with their teachers being hostile to giving them Gymnasium recommendations. I’m not saying that the recommendations were always unfair, but they often had a “class” tint to them. (“Sein Vater is Hausmeister, was will der auf dem Gymnasium?” is something I heard in a meeting once from a teacher.) And it began in kindergarten where the teachers would call the parents in for a consultation because they didn’t approve of the kind of Pausenbrot the parents were sending along with their kids.

              I do think there’s a lot of solidarity in Germany (or has been, anyway) due to the effect of the shared suffering of the war and its aftermath, which Germany experienced in a different way than in Britain, and that social solidarity doesn’t seem to be something that Brits experience (from my limited experience of the UK — I can’t say as much about it).

              • I’d say there was some in the post war period from what i gather but Thacherism took care of that. And there was more 20-10 years ago to go by. It was noticeable in work and non work environment.There’s been a shift in the last few years and any kind of solidarity is at an all time low.I think maybe economics not being too bad 10 years ago probably disguised the lack of to some degree. But today i actually wonder if what was broken in Th. ever tried to recover or evolve. I never felt society move backwards so visibly. Discussions today and policies proposed seem unreal..

          • I dunno. Germany is the only country I am aware of where every fourth politician has a doctorate and people have to leave office because they plagiarized theirs and “Dr.” is an official part of your name and you can be charged with a crime for using the title if you don’t have it — and these rules transcend even the “classless” rhetoric of the SPD. And then you have the scads of people involved in the “zweiter Bildungsweg,” presumably because it will get them something they wouldn’t get otherwise. There’s an amazing respect for teachers in Germany. And there really are families with important influence in the university and church world, where being a member of those families decisively influences your options. Perhaps the US is unusually unconcerned with education, but Germany seems to be preoccupied with it from my perspective.

            Although I agree about cars — I saw recently a list of things Germans would never say and one is “I don’t care about what car I am driving or how it looks.” But I think that there are sub-issues within that that are also class markers. My exSO always used to grouse about / sturggle with his parents’ style of consumption and I read that as a class issue. Some people in Germany have access to or consume certain kinds of antiques, for instance, which is not the case for other social groups in the country. That all Germans like to consume is undeniable, but there are nonetheless subpatterns of consumption that are typical to particular class entities.

            I think to some extent scientists get a pass on class issues, or have up till now, insofar as science has been internationalized since before the second world war — there is a long history of officially not caring about class distinctions in that particular chunk of the information elite. But I would argue that there are absolutely similar issues in the US to the problem of banking or political elites in the UK; they just don’t necessarily relate to which boarding school you have attended. Contemporary politicians in the UK, for instance, are also majority public school graduates.

            • Love your comment about German politicians and their plagiarised theses! That really stunned me when the first cases came to light. Very embarrassing for them! Well, Merkel truly has a PhD in physics so at least she is a bona fide doctor! 😉
              As for the title being part of the name, this is truly a German quirk.

            • I may be a cynic but if you ask me, the respect for teachers originates in the fact that teachers are Beamten and therefore in receipt if a fat pension on retirement! I know teachers claiming higher pensions than university professors, owing to the fact that the latter did not manage to be “beamtet”.

              • Well, I would never say that educational attainment is separate from other issues of status. But I think the respect for teachers precedes historically their status as civil servants. (Even in the nineteenth century the teacher would be the most socially respected person in a small town after the local aristocrat and the pastor, if the pastor and teacher weren’t the same person.) But we might read that also as the traditional German respect for the state — something that is nonexistent in the U.S. This isn’t to say there are no other respected categories in Germany (industrialist, for example), and one striking thing about German vs. England is the comparison position of the (in Germany former) aristocracy. But I still think educational achievement and position are absolutely important status markers in Germany. I could also cite the amount of time the German news spends on Hochschulpolitik — which is off the charts compared to the U.S.

                In the U.S., having a doctorate would be an obstacle to getting elected. Something you’d want to hide or deny. Or ostentatiously give yours back to prove you weren’t one of those eggheads.

                • Thanks for all the interesting points you raise, food for thought! It’s so great that you know so much about Germany, love it!

                  I could go on for hours but it’s time for bed now, after all a girl needs her beauty sleep! 😝


        • Yup this is why we were making nasty jokes at work about bankers and their silly brown shoes rules. Bec obviously with what a place like mine pays people can’t even get near those schools. And why we tend to be Guardian and not Times or FT readers. I realised and confirmed for myself that i made the right choice when i passed through City in an interview during the period of job uncertainty. Even the offices gave me nearly an allergic reaction. Almost like a weird hospital or regimented institution of some sort. The chaps who interviewed me cleary thought manners were not entirely needed as they yawned through the meeting stretching their fingers graced by signet rings. Lol too bad as the foreign national also in a good team position had been a great conversation partner and technically it was great. The agency didnt get it when i said i didn’t think we were a good fit 🙄 but then again i decided to rebel unconsciously and instead of wearing one of many black/grey suits and pastel coloured blouses i wore the same as to my work on tje day which was a roll neck and matching sweater. Because at some point in the past when i stopped being a condultant i decided i didn’t want to go back to the ‘uniform’. To be fair the other chap was a true gent and interesting. But the one in question would have been my boss. The ‘personality’ clash vibes were obvious. But if i was a jobless beginner that could have been an unpleasant experience. In this case i just thought they were rude and glad nit to gave to go into the hospital office. I never felt more relieved to have disappointed dad’s aspirations to see me working in a bank. It’s a weird bubble of a world in some industries. And was significantly less noticeable in Scotland… where there are no education fees. It’s a minority and in strongly multicultural London weirder still. The problem arises when that minority and esp the hard core of it is in government as we currently have the pleasure. It’s not the real world as they often forget.trouble is when they set the rules for the real world and think they are self sufficient.

        • I’m not quite sure I understood the part of the interview concerning grammar schools, government programs… It sounded to me that some people want to institute, or reinstate a system that would determine what a child is suited to at a fairly young age, and set him on that track? So, it would be predetermined whether a child is suited for university, trade… Am I understanding correctly?

          • Yes. This might help:

            This relates directly to class as most grammar schools were / are populated by students from the middle classes. If you read the book, Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew, you may remember that Hare talks about this to himself. He passes the eleven plus and thus goes to a grammar school, but feels excluded there because his father is a miner (working class). Grammar schools are thought by Conservatives to further equality while liberals think they enforce existing class distinctions.

            This discussion at present all follows upon the failure of a plan by the Cameron government to turn all schools supervised by local authorities into “academies” (an institution with a lot of similarities to charter schools in the US): The idea was wildly controversial and in the end Cameron could not put it through: So the reinstitution of grammar schools is the May government’s attempt to follow up on the politics of school reform in a way that might be more palatable within its own party ranks.

            (Interestingly, there is some old fan lore that Armitage’s brother is a grammar school graduate who did not go on to university, although the evidence disappeared years before i could see it, so it’s just something I’ve heard.)

  2. Just a quick thought about accents and class–the discussion here has helped clarify for me why Kenneth has a coarser (for lack of a better word) accent in Act 1 than in Acts 2 & 3–I thought it was an age thing but it’s obvious to me now that it’s just as much a class issue. He’s only been at Oxford for a year, so enough time to pick up some of the ideas of his peers, but not enough to erase his working class accent. By Act 2, he’s long graduated from Oxford so most likely his accent so it makes sense that his accent would be much more polished. Amy Ryan doesn’t change her accent from Act 1 to Act 2–it could be she doesn’t perceive the same class issues as RA. Even if she did, I imagine it’s incredibly hard to maintain a believable English accent much less change it subtly from act to act.

    • To be honest, in the clip that RTC shared she didn’t sound all that English to me anyway. Will reserve judgment until I hear her in person.

      I also think that on the whole, because patriarchal society works the way it does, that the issues involved in switching class are different for men and women. I always think of that scene in Gosford Park where the woman cries because both her husband and her lady’s maid are class shaming her.

      • Interesting point on switching classes being different from men than women. I know you don’t plan on viewing the post-play lecture videos until after you’ve seen the play, but just FYI, some of the stuff in this interview were also touched upon in the post-play lecture.

        • Not to put it too bluntly, but if you’re the breadwinner vs the brood mare, it makes a different. It’s not quite that stark these days, but there’s still something about the respective social roles men and women take and the expectations people place on the genders.

          Thanks for letting me know about the content of the vids — I am absolutely looking forward.

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