Uncle Vanya, second impressions [possible spoilers] #richardarmitage

Tonight I sat in Dress Circle A5. This was an excellent seat with better sight lines to most of the stage than the seat I had last night (albeit roughly 40% further away), and if these seats are still available, the ones in the middle of the front row and those immediately adjacent on the sides should be an excellent choice. There was also more leg room.

I’m also still worried about that candle at the end of the piece — tonight the curtain actually did threaten to hit it until Toby Jones grabbed it. Why do they need a live candle there?

But anyway — some more impressions from tonight’s show. This audience was not as live as the previous night’s, and for that reason some of the actors did not draw out the gags as far as they had last night. No huge changes that I noticed, except that in Act III, Astrov moves inside the scene — or at least inside the sight light to stage left — to observe the argument between the other characters and he is noticeable as an observer. And also in Act III, Yelena’s approach to Vanya to gain his assurance that she and the Professor will leave the estate that night is more emotional and tearful.

They also got good solid applause although not standing. Armitage actually did stand near the middle of the stage for the curtain call this time around instead of at the edge of stage left.

My changed perspective meant that I could see more of Armitage reacting to other characters and also of his attempt to flirt with Yelena in Act I. Lots of looks and pregnant glances. In general, I could see better this time that he almost always pauses and looks at a scene, or even at a specific character in a scene, before he enters it. It adds quite a bit, for instance, that in Act III we can see that he observes Yelena’s argument with Vanya from off stage right. It’s a detail but one with a lot of weight. And I got a much better look at his face in Act III in the verbal tussle with Yelena over his attraction to her. (All in all that is a chunk of scene I am really going to want to write about more. There’s this amazing dance that he does with her while they barely touch but they stare at each other like they’re having each other for supper — as a tension / kiss substitute?) It makes him seem much more dangerous in that scene.

The show was less funny tonight (and moved a bit more slowly — something along the lines of three or four minutes, I think), but there was a greater emotionality in some of the scenes. I didn’t know how to feel about this just because I was simultaneously intrigued by the mix of comedy and tragedy last night and the rhythm of it, and bugged. So this was a presentation that didn’t move quite so zanily between moves. I’m guessing the audiences will prefer more comedy, especially because so much of what the play has to say is so steeped in pathos.

I also got to see what Armitage does when he runs off the stage into the rain — he strips off his shirt, gets wet, then turns around, we see him dancing while he’s singing this song, then he comes back and leers through the window of the French doors before coming back on stage and pulling a blanket over himself.

Something that also made me laugh — during the second “folk song” that they sing, Armitage was gurgling “wine” in harmony with the guitar and the other singer. This was insane and I don’t know how he did it, but we all laughed like crazy. Overall, he gets a lot of physical comedy out of the role — he’s the only character who scrupulously follows the canon of Russian manners (hand-kissing, the bow from the waist), and this is probably one reason that the Professor describes Astrov as pompous — but it’s just so silly to watch someone that tall with such a mop of hair bend at the waist to bow. The hair flips over, there’s this sense of huge, ridiculous motion that takes away all the seriousness. Also in the drunken scenes — honestly, Armitage must be insanely well coordinated — balancing while standing on a chair and pretending to be drunk.

Questions I need to think about:

  • why is this play called “Uncle Vanya”?
  • why doesn’t Astrov get a soliloquy or a true monologue (vs. Sonia, Vanya, Yelena, the Professor)?
  • the way Armitage conveys the repeated theme of “I can’t feel my feelings”
  • his at times very rigid / 90-degree angle gestural language

Gotta get to bed.

~ by Servetus on January 16, 2020.

9 Responses to “Uncle Vanya, second impressions [possible spoilers] #richardarmitage”

  1. I wish I could join you at the theatre but that is not feasible at this point.
    Do you know if the performance will be streamed or otherwise made available to those who can’t physically be there?


  2. I soooo wish I could see this wonder in action! Hopefully there will be a way to watch it some how

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many thanks to you for all these details, for going more in descriptions! I am happy to know that dress circle A5 allows good sights.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! Very interesting review, I’m looking forward for more (and more, and more… I can’t get enough) Have a good time!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you heaps for this and the previous review, the detail you provide is wonderful. I’m so glad you were able to make it to London to see the play, you’ve well and truly earned some “me time”.


  6. Thank you so much for your review (for every review). It’s very helpful in many ways. I follow your blog from 9 years almost every day. But I don’t comment (I am not very good in English).
    I really appreciate everything you write and the rest of the comments. Sometimes I disagree with you. But I’m always interested in what you write. Not just about Richard Armitage (I have been following/admire him for 12 years. I started with N&S). I hope to see myself Uncle Vanya in April. Enjoy the shows! Mariana (I am from Romania)


  7. […] has already been to 3 performances of Uncle Vanya, she wrote about them here, here and here. Guylty has written about stage door experiences here and here. There has been some […]


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