The Crucible, 2 years and 11 times later

10/03 – Lunch-break edit. Sorry, dear readers. I am using this post a bit as my own notepad on things that i think about. I found an article citing Robert Delamere from back in 2010 when it was very early days for filming theater and it is interesting to see how he thought of his work and where it evolved to.

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From left to right: host Louise Jury, Zara White (Mercy Lewis), Anna Madley (Elizabeth Proctor), Marama Corlett (Betty Parris), Robert Delamere (filmed performance director) -Click for bigger version

Apologies in advance for the slightly disjointed re-telling of the discussion which lasted about 35-40 minutes. Due to increased security measures I had to leave my backpack at the cloakroom and I didn’t think of taking a notebook from the backpack, just my valuables and a bottle of water. I tried to keep my eyes and ears peeled and although I think I captured the meaning of what was said it won’t be the exact wording.

I don’t know how much of this will be new to you, but it was interesting, especially since we haven’t had a chance before to hear Robert Delamere talk more extensively about his experience with the Crucible. His answers and comments were peppered throughout the discussion, but for some reason I found it easier to recall them separately; His were the closing words before the screening began 🙂

They were all excited about there being another screening of the Crucible, some saw it for the first time on screen on this occasion. It was a good discussion;  It was also bit emotional to see such familiar faces again and it obviously brought back some very fond memories for them too. It was great to have the opportunity to see the play again and the talk at the beginning added something special to it, I’m thankful to them for making the time 🙂

Without further ado:

Screen talk with Marama Corlett (Betty Parris), Anna Madley (Elizabeth Proctor), Zara White (Mercy Lewis), Robert Delamere (filmed performance director) – hosted by Louise Jury

  • Louise Jury commented that at the time of the premiere she was still a member of the press and she was the one who at the end of such an emotional evening ‘got to ask the question about how it felt to be back on stage after 12 years?’
  • AM, MC and ZW all mentioned how happy they were the performance had been captured especially for all those who at the time could not see it in personal, particularly internationally (they all seemed to remember with fondness how many people were interested in the show); all 3 mentioned that people did indeed come to see the show from all corners of the world and that it was exciting that so many people wanted to see it;

Roles & Rehearsing:

  • Anna Madley –Elizabeth Proctor – it is such a great part and so interesting because women in the play – wives -only have power in their society through the men and yet, as the play progresses, the balance changes; She was fascinated also by trying to show a ‘good’ woman as it is hard to play ‘good’.
  • Anna Madley – in rehearsals they created this safe space where they could experiment and understand/live their character. Yael spent a lot of time defining the society in which these people lived, their beliefs, constraints, rules and interactions so that they were able to find the place of ‘their’ character in this society. But it was equally a play of personal detail, of showing the couple trying to rebuild their broken relationship, trying to work through the adultery.
  • All 4 commented about the background of the play and the historical approach saying that although the political messages Miller included was very much present they were also interested in the historical story depicted and its inspiration. The way this particular society works was an important part of the production, who the people are, what their roles are within this community. How a community can come to tear itself apart and ‘accuse their neighbour’. Jury mentioned for the audience present that it was a very dark interpretation of the play. (They tried to keep the discussion general as, after inquiry, there were quite a few in the audience who didn’t know the play so they didn’t want to spoil too much of the story)
  • Marama Corlett mentioned that her ballet training came in very handy when creating the ‘possessed movements’ but they were very lucky in having a great choreographer with whom they worked in great detail. Her naturally petite frame helped in portraying a young girl;
  • Zara White commented on the extended collaborative work they did within the group of girls; they spent long periods of time of time together and really felt as a unit; Louise Jury commented about how frightening they were as a group and how fascinating it was to watch the power these girls came to hold over the people in town. Anna Madley jokingly commented that she felt left out of the ‘girl group’.
  • The word intense came back again and again about rehearsals and when asked how was the run after all the rehearsals all 3 said smilingly ‘intense’; Robert Delamere and Louise Jury also confirmed that ‘intense’ also defined their experience of seeing the show live.

Performing :

  • They remember the sounds and smells; apparently some plants may have been imported to produce the specific smell that wafted through the hall at the beginning;
  • Yael wished that they could have captured the sensory experience as well as the visual one 🙂
  • They initially had a live chicken in the show and it housed on the rooftop of the Old Vic for several months but unfortunately would not comply with the hygiene requirements on stage and finally got its P45 before the previews 🙂
  • It was 5 very intense months and at the end of the evening some found relief in drinks 😉 Anna Madley said she went back home to breastfeed her baby and sadly had to miss out on all the drinks during the entire run, for which she was envious;
  • They said they couldn’t really sleep during those 5 months;
  • They were thrilled that it was filmed but Anna Madley mentioned that they had to concentrate to not try and deliver the best for the camera but forget that the cameras were there and work as if it is a normal theatre performance where you try to better your last one and continue exploring the character each day; She also mentioned that in a way you continue doing that until the end of the run when you wish you had another run to continue experimenting and improving. In the end they found they forgot about the cameras and treated them in their locations as if they were just another member of the audience sitting there.

Audience/performing in the round:

  • Slight jokes from Zara White and Anna Madley in response to a questions from LJ about the ‘passionate fans’; They mentioned that Richard Armitage ‘bless him, went out every single night after the performance to sign and take pictures with the fans’. Zara said ‘there were hundreds of them! … well, maybe I am exaggerating ;-), but there were many!’ and that they had quite some characters in the performances. Marama Corlett added that actually they felt the support from the audience and the warmth and that she felt as if people were ‘giving them a hug’ in emotional support;
  • Performing in the round was both exciting and challenging as it can be potentially distracting to have the audience so close. Anna Madley mentioned that she was thrilled about working in the round as all your expressions and all of you is exposed as you can be seen from all angles. And that although you act for the people immediately next to you, at the same time you have to make sure you reach the person in the last corner and that the Old Vic is quite high.
  • Marama Corlett remembered standing by the side stairs looking at the audience and ‘seeing them getting tired’ (she didn’t mean because of long sitting, but rather as a consequence of tension and intensity, even though as an audience you are sitting and watching) and also getting emotionally involved and wanting to engage with what was happening very directly.
  • All 3 mentioned that it was special to build that connection to the audience each night and feel at the end of each night a sort of unity, shared experience. (it seemed to me that the connection to the audience was something that they remembered fondly from the experience).

Robert Delamere:

  • The Crucible has been a very successful recording, over 3 million students have seen it through their special education programme; since they first included it in their catalogue it has been the top seller to this day;
  • He’s always been fascinated with the play, had directed the Sheffield Crucible a few years earlier and had been keen to see the Old Vic version on stage;
  • He saw it in the previews and was convinced it needed to be captured 🙂 He told his team after the performance ‘We are doing The Crucible!’
  • The Miller estate were very supportive of the project and are very happy with the result and also its international reach; they have kept coming back for several copies since and there was a special screening for the family in the US;
  • He loved working with Yael and he wanted to capture the feeling of it as accurately as possible; he approached her and she said she would take as much time as necessary to talk about the play and direction – they ended up spending 9 hours together thinking and planning with Delamere story-boarding each scene (ohhh, so there were his boards! J fascinating!)
  • It was captured on 3 consecutive nights and took about 10 weeks to edit; they had about 9 cameras filming the performance. In edits he went back to the emotional core of each scene – they discussed what were the 3 emotional points that needed to be focused on in each scene, rather than just the lines themselves – and this is how they decided which angles to show.
  • He expressed a hope that they had managed to capture for the screen that intensity which characterised the experience in the theatre and that the audience in the cinema would feel the connection to it by the end of the play.
  • He thought the last scene was especially beautiful and touching with these 2 people letting go of all barriers and walls they had built up and baring their souls to each other the way they hadn’t done in years. It was his favourite moment from the play (he expressed it very beautifully; wish I could have remembered his exact words).
  • They were excited about the twitter support and had fun watching the bits of news being followed by so many people
  • The project is special to him also on a personal note because he was lucky to meet Miller himself when he was 25 and Miller was 83 and he asked Miller what he would like audiences to take away from the play. Miller said: ‘life is about courage’. He believes this Crucible certainly captures that message.

 

PS. This is all for tonight, it is 2am, I am wide awake and full of thoughts about the play.

Right back where I was sometime in July 2014. Tonight it does not feel at all like it was nearly 2 years ago.

And unsurprisingly I’ll have some more thoughts to share about seeing the play again so I’ll be editing this over the next few days.

10/03 – Delamere back in 2010, when theater filming was at its beginnings. The subject fascinates me as i like drama on TV and on stage and i find sometimes they get closer and closer together. He managed to put the finger on why i always felt the filmed Crucible was quite different from other plays i saw broadcast in the cinema, why it felt so far away from a static capture.

http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/digital-theatre-page-stage-screen

and an interview 5 years later:

The Crucible Interview: Director Robert Delamere

 

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The Crucible #OneLastTime

continued from here.

(gratuitous London photo, Southbank on a full moon night)

(gratuitous London photo, Southbank on a full moon night)

A few thoughts about the Crucible kept bouncing round and some i included in the comments on the previous post, so i decided to include them here and expand a bit.

I didn’t want the previous post to sound as a bleak story of Eastern Europe, which it is not. I know ultimately i am lucky and i also understand that things were not black and white. I hope readers understand that this is just a very personal view and by no means an interpretation of the play or its impact or what i expect people would feel seeing it. I hesitated for a long time if to write about this at all and have done so only partially as in a way the play was only a trigger and the thoughts about the past have many motivations. I just wanted to capture some of the more personal reasons why the Crucible meant a lot to me. It’s because it felt like this to me that i genuinely wonder what it meant to other people and how it impacted audiences based on their very different experiences… And i hope people will continue to share their thoughts once the download becomes available.

I guess the other thing i wanted to say was that i felt the play as presented, directed and acted was emotionally truthful. I think it is possible it felt a bit OTT to first time viewers maybe, but i just wanted to share my opinion on that matter and say that it felt very real to me and by no means exaggerated. It’s where i admire Farber’s work most, that she avoided the temptation to use a sledgehammer to drive things home and instead went for unabashed, committed emotional engagement. And i think it is the truthfulness of it that sinks in gradually through the play and drags the audience in. Every piece of the play was necessary to produce the effect, the direction and every single actor.

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It’s impossible to capture all thoughts i had about the play and the characters (i noticed that even the 5th time at the cinema i still kept thinking about what i was seeing in slightly different ways, or rather considering aspects and flashes of images or character reactions i hadn’t focused on before quite the same way), but i should have probably pointed out in the previous post and i failed to do so that the character that i identify with the most is not Proctor, but Hale. And the past plays a big role in it, i’d put life above all other values too (which is why my own conclusion about the past is that it should not be a blame game, everybody lied for safety – but where my own dilemma lies and my own doubts, is in the lack of consideration and learning and thinking about the past and understanding it). The play forced me to think about and accept some things, including the fact that i would never be a person of action. But it reminded me that my life today is owed to those who did act and i should not allow myself to be as complacent as i’ve been, that the least i should do is try to make a difference. I know it all sounds like a big pile of… but it does matter to me and all i can say is i am trying. (Aside – interesting, i wrote all this before the recent events but they don’t change my view of things at all. It only re-enforces my conviction that we can never sit back and let things happen, that there is always a place, a way, somewhere, someplace we can make a difference.)

I also thought for most of the time all elements were equally weighted in the play and i still think that if any one of the actors would not have been as good as they were, the whole would not have been as brilliant. The strength of the Crucible@OldVic manifested itself in everyone’s commitment to make it real, recognisable, identifiable, but the strength and message of the play goes beyond that. Having seen a bit more of it recently i believe it is so inspiring because it not only shows us what we can easily recognise from around us, but also what we don’t encounter every day, the people who are extraordinary or become that (outgrow their faults?). And that is Proctor 🙂 I think we need people like Proctor and that was even within the play the hardest journey to make.  Miller meant for Proctor to grow, to stand out in this community, to conflict, confront and ultimately inspire.

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I’m a fan, so this is probably very biased by now, but i think it takes somebody special to make somebody as extraordinary as Proctor this believable. I didn’t necessarily feel he was ‘special’ the first time i saw it, i almost felt like Salem itself was it with him just being one of the more prominent ones among the people of Salem, even though by the end he weighs in more. It was by no means love at first sight with either the character, or RA. Maybe this is why i now feel  so strongly about his artistry, why i’m so certain about his talent, his work ethic, even the fact that he seems to be a really decent person. It’s the logical conclusion in the face of accumulating facts or evidence i saw with my own eyes, of pieces of the puzzle falling neatly together into a convincing picture. I was convinced, drawn in again and again, resistance slowly crumbling 😉

It’s interesting that Proctor as a character grew on me through time and now in retrospect it speaks to me of his ability to be subtle in his acting; that he managed to trace the path from one of the main members of the community to outspoken leader in a way, it’s that change that made him a hero/leader for me. But it is also his ability to make me accept human error and flaws, to see Proctor for who he is and still be inspired by his final choices. For example, with every viewing the desire he feels for Abigail became more evident, impossible to hide in act1 and still we understand that he’s determined to overcome it and conquer it if you will in act 2, where he truly communicated loyalty to Elizabeth. I like that fact that we can still doubt if it is love he feels or it’s all just loyalty and it only really becomes clear by the end, as Proctor himself i guess recognised it for what it is 🙂 It’s the most fascinating portrayal of external display of authority and certainty about his place in the community and conflict and insecurity about his inner self and his place and role in his private/family life. Yes, RA you are a master of weaving personalities out of convictions, principles and conflicting passions. It’s the complexity of it that made me come back for more and the fact that in some ways Proctor still remained a mystery, an aspiration which will make him an unforgettable character to have known.

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The other day i saw my last Crucible, in the cinema. There will be downloads and more viewings i am sure, but as far as the close up experience is concerned, this was the last bit of it. I’m not really sad, i feel more as sense of contentment and almost accomplishment, it’s embossed in my mind and my thoughts. I’ve experienced it and i am very grateful that it is part of my memory in a way that i will always be able to cherish it.

It was the perfect last viewing, small cinema screening but, unlike before Xmas, the cinema was nearly full with a mix of people who had seen it live and wanted to relive it and those who didn’t know anything about it. It was a very attentive public and nobody seemed to feel the need to fuel themselves up with drinks or noisy food 😉 At interval there was still lively chatting and loud commenting somewhere behind me about the volume of speech from some of the actors, some mentions of Daniel Day Lewis and a certain film and a repeated stating (in light of the poster displayed on screen at interval) of ‘who is this? Richard Armitage, don’t know him, he’s ok’ .. followed by the mention of the film with DDL. All this took place in total darkness as the cinema staff apparently had no clue about the interval. And bar two people who nipped out briefly and came rushing back still during the interval, nobody even got up from their seats! The music for the 2nd part started and the cinema descended again in silence  and you wouldn’t have been able to tell people were sitting there watching as there was not the smallest of sounds all the way till the end. In fact, Proctor chose to keep his name, kissed Elizabeth and stepped away to his death, the play ended, the applause came and went and nobody moved, nobody made a sound… The credits came and people remained in their seats in utter silence and only towards the end started to get up slowly, gather their things and left the cinema in utter silence… Not one word was spoken and everyone left slowly, thoughtfully …. I’ve never experienced this anywhere in either theatre or cinema before, the silence and at the same time the intense emotion that hovered there in the air… so overwhelming that nobody dared to speak. Silence speaks louder than words sometimes they say.

I couldn’t begin to guess what people thought or felt, but i have no doubt whatsoever that everyone was deeply touched. And so was i, it never failed to make me feel a lot, every single time i saw it and all those feelings continue to stay with me.

Proctor’s tortured face and ultimately serene, emotional eyes will haunt me for a long time i think. And once a feeling of peace settled at the end as i was walking home in the dark, an image came into my mind. In my mind i was able to extend my hand and cradle that snot and blood stained, rough bearded, tear streaked and pale make-up caked cheek, gently wipe away the moisture with the tip of the thumb and whisper while looking into those eyes :’Thank you.’