Uncle Vanya, fourth impressions [could include spoilers] #richardarmitage

[and yes, I realize we’re now moving into Servetus’ obsessive mode, so I apologize for that. I’ll be home in a few days]

Tonight I was seated in stalls E 13 and this was practically the perfect seat, certainly best yet, although someone tall was seated in front of me and I really started to get irritated with the rake at the front of the stalls.

I think that as a play the best performance was still the first one (even if I didn’t know how I felt about the jerkiness of that tempo, the lurching back and forth between humor and pathos which it seems now was maybe created or facilitated by the quite live audience). This was the one that moved the most, though, maybe because I was feeling somewhat emotional before I went into it. All in all I really don’t know how to feel about this play. It’s a bit weird. In any case, although there have been at most minor changes, Armitage is certainly right that it’s felt like a new show every night.

There are two things I can point to that were really effective tonight — the tension at the beginning (Astrov is annoyed at having waited so long) was up even a tick more than the previous night and as a result the transition to the statement that is supposed to establish Astrov’s state of mind (that a patient of his died under chloroform) worked exceptionally well, better than I’ve seen. I think this is because the emotion seems more organic, and not just coming out of nowhere (as the text itself implies). Maybe it’s more that Astrov’s emotions are lurking closer to the surface than he realizes. Anyway, I really liked the trajectory this time, it seemed less melodramatic than it has on early evenings, and it fit better with the register of his voice where it is now. It also made Astrov somewhat more sympathetic.

Which is canceled out by the next thing I want to say, which is that there was way more than a tick more palpable tension between Astrov and Yelena tonight than there has been in the previous three shows. This works better because (a) Astrov is more emotional over against Yelena and (b) she is more exasperated by his disconnect with reality. Perhaps it’s worth saying that I suspect this is a scene that plays really differently for audiences now than it did in 1899 or any time since until relatively recently. In any case, it was really clear tonight that she doesn’t want or expect to be kissed and that his willful, almost automatic rolling over or her will is creepy. They are on the floor looking at maps, and then they do this dance (there’s no other way to put it) to get to the conversation about Sonia, and then to the kiss — Armitage is up and down repeatedly, he kneels, he dashes upstage, he surrounds her — there’s a lot of movement there. The previous nights she’s seemed a bit ambivalent but she was not tonight and it was one of the weirder kisses I’ve seen him do. She wasn’t struggling so much as avoiding but he was clearly pursuing (while restraining himself — I’m guessing he must have to do this a lot). Intriguing to watch. I wonder how Rosalind Eleazar feels about it.

I just don’t like Aimee Lou Wood as Sonia at all, although she’s better when she uses her comic talents. (However, if she would follow that strand consistently all the way through her closing monologue, it would make the whole fourth act seem ironic, so it wouldn’t work.) That said, there was so much more tension in Act III and particularly in Act IV this time that I was more sympathetic to the ending of the play than I have been so far, even if that refrain of “we will rest” makes me feel aggressive and bothered. Also I found myself thinking that Vanya was a jerk and he just manipulated everyone into exactly what he wanted.

I was more moved than I have been by these people’s predicament, maybe because I realized after writing the previous post how much the prospect of nothing every changing is weighing on my mind (as well as the fear that a manipulative Vanya will make that arrangement, either in my personal life or in U.S. politics).

The more I’ve enjoyed the play, the less I enjoy the stage door spectacle, but Armitage really seems to have turned a corner on this. He bounced out there, immediately went to the end of the line, and was really talkative and forthcoming. Everyone who wanted one got a selfie. He was cheerful and responsive.

Overheard in the interval: “Richard Armitage — he’s at the top, he’s obviously meant to be famous. I just love him in this role! But he doesn’t ring any bells. Who is he?”

From Astrov to Armitagemania. I felt so positive about this that it doesn’t even bother me that I dropped my interval notes somewhere. Well, it kinda doesn’t bother me. [snorts]

~ by Servetus on January 18, 2020.

3 Responses to “Uncle Vanya, fourth impressions [could include spoilers] #richardarmitage”

  1. I love to read your thoughts on the play, I see it tonight and I feel sanguine.
    I was too anxious to enjoy TC , worried over his performance I guess but with this one I don’t feel he has anything to prove.
    I liked your comments about over heard remarks, amazing really, so few people know who he is, but those who do love him.


  2. Thanks again for this, interesting to read about the differences in performance.
    Bummer about losing your notes – I wonder if anyone has found, read them and has been able to make any sense of them. 🙂


  3. Your obsessiveness is our gain!


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