Soul food, recipe by Richard Armitage

I know i have been absent and that i haven’t really shared much with you in a really long time. There have been the odd instances where something happened and I felt I wanted to mark it, but between NY and now expressing any thoughts has gone under the whirlwind of daily life. In fact NY still feels current to me, or recent. In between I feel like I have been living (and continue to do so) in a pressure pot. Maybe I will get a chance to talk more about it as it’s still pretty much how life is, but this post is not about that 🙂

It is thankfully about going back to the ‘happy place’ I was in during the NY trip and around it and coming back to myself as well and to a version of myself I enjoy. To a place where work merges with hobby, where for 1 day I am allowed to and I can shut everything else out and just live in the now and enjoy the hell out of it. It is invigorating and I only wish I had been better prepared, with batteries fully loaded to throw more force at it and get even more back. But maybe part of the best fun is not being able to prepare for it and just letting it happen 🙂
Part of it has also been finding joy and connection in being with people. Not because you have to, not because you have to get something done, not because it’s your job, no because you have made a commitment, with no expectation other than spending time together and enjoying yourselves, no plan, no targets, no pressures. I’d honestly nearly forgotten what that feels like. So thanks for giving me back a part of myself goes to the lovely ladies I shared the brief stay in Newcastle with (and whose great photos and lovely blog reports you can also read below):
Esther (@BookEstherBlog); Ella (@Ella_4619)  , Linda (@aka_linda60) and Judit
It’s been great fun, to be repeated! And I so hope that the next event, whatever and wherever it may be will bring all the groups and lovely friends from nearer and afar together!

Sadly there are not many photos from me, a total of 2-3, but please do read the above blogs and give tumbler and twitter a go over on the tag #richardarmitage and also check Perry and Serv, who have diligently and with great patience linked to many fan reports and photos. I’ve hoarded myself quite a few of those generously shared all round but I really don’t want to post them without permission or not quoting the owners, so I’ll just mostly point you in the right direction for those essential photo-fixes 😉

From me there will be mostly words, words, words as in his presence my womanly multitasking talent fails me and my eyes, ears and brains are just focused on taking it all in and storing it for a long looong time.

I can’t really say I planned the trip, because little conscious effort went into it, it was a series of –raise head above water, kneejerk click here and there, back to RL – kind of moments. When the possibility of a screening was announced I thought I could just book some hotels and see later and I did book various covering the whole weekend because the date wasn’t know or anything else. Then I bought tickets, I did stop and think a second if I was willing to loose the money if I didn’t go but I decided I could and went ahead. And then many weeks passed, I watched the return train fares go up and up and up… booked 2 alternative tickets in London for stuff that very same weekend, then cancelled them because RL took priority and I wasn’t feeling like going out and wanted to have time available for other commitments. And then I finally bit the train bullet but stashed it on the credit card as if not used there are some return options.
Even the week before I wasn’t entirely sure and only when it finally appeared as if no other commitments would emerge that weekend I knew I would travel. My expectation from the program was pretty much like this: a QA at which my understanding was he would be the interviewer as they would want to feature Caroline Goodall , since she is the patron and he was around and they knew each other – but it looked interesting in any case, 2 actors taking about acting, count me in – and straight away an introduction to Urban after which he would return to Easter holidays. Done and dusted.

I didn’t give anything more thought as I have more trips and days of work in between coming up and my only concern was to pack as lightly as possible for the day (in early Sat due to train fares, out Easter Sun lunchtime). I didn’t pack even a scap of paper, neither my still rolled up and unframed Crucible posters, nor any paper tickets, not even poor POP-Thorin. I was convinced no direct interaction of any kind was planned or would have time to happen given tight schedule.

I hate early trains and I usually stress about being late and missing it and having to pay the fare again so I caught about 1h of sleep and my lent diet which had up until now worked ok failed me and a spinach salad with roasted carrot did me in. So I was tired, feeling rough and grumpy and got really cold on the train because of being plastered against the cold wall in a window seat on a full train. And the train was going to Edinburgh…. I didn’t really want to get off before that, it will always feel odd to get on a train going to Edinburgh but not actually making it back there… I used to think when I got past Newcastle, ‘not long now, more than 2/3 through’… the Tyne bridge was always a signal I was getting close to home 🙂

But get off I did and in dogged determination decided as you do round here that umbrellas are for wimps and it’s just a bit of water, not worth the bother.

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So on top of tired, rough, grumpy-ish (train was on time so thumbs up!) and cold I was now completely sodden. Well done me. Room wasn’t ready so I decided to park myself on a comfy armchair next to reception and not to move until the ladies arrived and we were off to some warm lunch after which I wanted my hotel bed for as long as possible before having to brave it out again.

Thankfully about 1h later the ladies did arrive and things started looking up! What we hadn’t counted with was that we were competing for local amenities with half the male population of the North as well as incoming troupes who had arrived for a football match and if I understood correctly also a boxing one and also, you know, bank holiday weekend! We were probably outnumbered 20/1 in town this weekend and every pub was packed. So braving the great-North-wash-away yet again we retired as ladies who lunch to a lovely Browns, where in spite of being busy we were accommodated and they moved tables around so we could stay for as long as we wish. I was reminded how friendly and welcoming people up North are and I used to like coming here with work to the brewery 🙂 Lovely place and people. I sadly decided to forego the beer I had been dreaming about since scheduling the trip (in memories of my old brewing days) as well as any caffeine and chose a big pot of peppermint tea instead. After some very proper steak and Guinness pie with mash and roasted bone marrow and fish and chips plus cherry and apple crumbles with icecream we were ready for bed!… er no, for that other event of the day!
Thankfully the company, the peppermint tea, couple pills and the warm food plus a 40 min nap did the trick and I felt nearly human by the time we were marching on the Mining Institute, where the QA was scheduled.
Lovely old building, filled with old photos and a smell of the times as well 😉 Wish they had allowed us to roam around a bit while we were waiting.

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(photo taken the next day when, ha! the sun was shining pretending the deluge the day before hadn’t happened!)

We were finally ushered into a surprising old fashioned but beautiful lecture hall in a very intimate amphitheater setting.

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(different event, sorry for the pinch, just to give you an idea)

It was really cosy and toasty after the cold and wet outside. Too warm actually, as if the fires needed stoking any more, if you know what I mean… Still debating if he stuck to his leather jacket in spite of the stuffy heat for our benefit (that T-shirt and bare arms would have been weapon grade) or realistically, he had too few and not warm enough clothes on and had been rather freezing himself for the sake of rocky looks and was grateful for the heat 😉

So yes, turns out Richard was there. And we were as instructed in row 2, trying to not be quite in his face but sideways, however since it was so small no brave souls sat in row 1 so we became front row… yet again. And there he was…. It suddenly sunk in why I was there, what was happening, that he was physically there, a meter away, walking, talking, breathing, casually but deadly dressed in all black, charmingly deploying all his means of entrapment. Black skinny jeans (because he can), cool black leather trainers, black leather jacket(!) and a t-shirt I was instantly mesmerized by. As Esther pointed out.. THAT T-shirt! Well, let’s talk about it 🙂

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Esther’s skillful fingers took this gem

Fan forensics of course identified it successfully as Alexander McQueen and it totally makes sense, there was just something about it. There are much more out there t shirts in their collections, this was understated simple cool. It’s part of their 2017 fall collection, which had some old military uniform inspiration elements. It mimics these fronts and emphasizes of course broad chest and narrow waist in the wearer.

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you get the idea 😉

And all black was visually great as it always looks good, emphasized his silhouette but was natural and relaxed. Look, I like men’s garments and like it when they dress well or things look good on them, regardless of who they are and this was a great look 🙂 Also black is a great colour, because once you’d seen it you could just focus on his face and hands when he spoke as your eyes were naturally drawn to the skin patches in the black figure. I don’t know if he thought about it much, but I suspect these things are actually taught in drama school and he certainly has a strong visual instinct (judging by his occasional photos) so it was very effective not just nice to look at.

To my surprise the guest was he and Caroline Goodall was the interviewer! But I was glad she also pitched in with her own opinions on various matters and it was thoroughly fascinating hour of chat about the evolution of his career but also about the business of film-making itself, not just the craft of acting. I hope the video they took will be made available to the public. Her respect and appreciation of his skills was utterly endearing and it was lovely to see they were friends. Both were relaxed and in a good mood, chatty and open.

There were 3 very stately chairs up front, one which looked more like a throne and Caroline jokingly said he had to take it! He sat there laughing but jumped straight out saying, oh no, but there would be one chair between us! He then discovered a wooden judge-type hammer and slammed it briefly jokingly to declare the session open and quiet down the excited murmurs in the audience 🙂

But then there are also the almost reflex, involuntary gestures. He sat down and by the nature of the tight semicircle of the auditorium seating he would have been turned away from the side to his right so he moved the chair and himself in it to turn so he could at least sit in profile and by no means give us a shoulder. He then turned down the microphones they were given to wear to amplify the voices to almost nothing so that he could speak naturally as if speaking directly to audience and not AT them. It’s small details, but his instinct is clearly to take his surroundings in and react to them, make himself part of them and make it ‘comfortable’, ‘safe’ for everyone. It was as if he wasn’t settled until he felt everyone else had the best experience too. Then he was happy and relaxed as well.

He’s certainly a complex person, which strikes me again and again every time I get to see and especially hear him live. He said as much himself, he used ‘conflicted’ so it’s not just my interpretation, although I choose to see it as complexity, not just ‘conflicted’ 😉 ; for me the 2 go hand in hand. He’s in many ways the same actor who fascinated me back in the Discussion about the Crucible but in many ways more, an even more matured, more experienced and more assured version of himself.

His voice is soft and pleasant, a friendly and I think in this case almost intimate tone. It’s certainly not the assertive or attention drawing tone of any of his audio work 🙂 It’s just a normal speaking voice.

There were the known facts about the start of his career and moving on from musical theatre, to the equity card (and equity is still important!), to the surprise casting as Thorin. (Wonder if all agents are such ‘darlings’ 😉 I’ve heard this sugary imitation of agent communications from others before , he said his agent called : ‘darling, let’s meet up’ and he knew that if it was more than a phone call, it must be important!) He mentioned the back pain at the audition and the lasting clicking his back sometimes still does as a consequence. He spoke following Caroline Goodall’s admiration for Thorin’s death scene and the character in general about creating it over a 3h period of takes done lying on the ground, because he felt it’s not over in a blink of an eye but takes time. He repeated his interest in conflicted characters because he thinks that normal people are often conflicted and still mentioned, at Caroline’s prompting, Guy of Gisborne with interest and as an example of where he was allowed to play with it because the writers understood and allowed the character to seek some redemption as well.

But there were also some interesting perspectives and insights in his attitude towards his career and work overall.

I felt both pride and relief in a way when he spoke about his agent and also himself working from early on towards a long term fulfilling career and not superstardom per se. At it was said from the perspective of time and what he felt they were achieving. He sounded confident and it pleased me and made me look forward to the future and all the things to come. He confirmed what he has hinted at before that it never is about the money but about the material and he hopes it will always stay this way. But there was also more about him being an English actor at work and having a ‘getting on with it’ attitude towards work which I think we’ve always heard from his colleagues through their appreciation of his reliability and collaborative approach on set. He expressed the belief that this kind of attitude of not making a fuss and getting on with it was the reason he was asked to join the Ocean’s 8 cast.

He expanded even more talking about the contribution each role makes to the film. For him it is not only/primarily about the story of his character but how it fits into the whole. It not about showcasing himself but making the right and best contribution to the whole. And I believe that is one of his strengths and what makes him such an interesting actor, beyond just a leading man! Caroline Goodall also emphasized this duality in his craft, he can do both leading man and character and in a way merge them both. She described him as a ‘shaman’, a cameleon who can become what the story needs him to be. It made me think back to both the Crucible and Love Love Love but also some of his film roles, like say Standring… he was subtle and made the ensemble stronger with his contribution. And if you look close enough you realise the amazing level of skill and subtlety it takes to make that kind of contribution. He is excellent without that ‘look at me’ vanity many actors involuntarily have. It makes me respect him even more becomes it comes from a conviction about the craft and the values of each person’s work.

And going back to the theme of trajectory he also mentioned about roles in general and choice that each preparation is valuable even if the role does not come to pass or if the material is not that relevant to the role, you always learn something interesting. And also that a role can be a door opener and a step on a path to others, even if taken on its own it may not be his choice. It’s not the first time his comments have indicated this feeling and intention of a journey in his work, but it was reassuring to hear it from him. Basically it reassures me, eager fan, that there is a next step, a next role and that at this stage he is confident about that being the right approach for him.

Responding to questions he also mentioned that he thought he wouldn’t do horror, especially involving kids and was a bit apprehensive about his current project , but that it turned out to be more physiological thriller. But that he would still be actively avoiding any slasher/blood everywhere type horror 😉

He feels he may be out-spied and may have done one too many, but that in action movies his approach has been to try as much as he can to make it believable to the real professionals so that they could credit his character on screen with a fair representation of the ‘truth’. He got very passionate about presenting the ‘truth’ when in front of the camera, so much so that if he feels he is failing he has to stop and feels like he wants the earth to open and swallow him up.

Still talking about his craft and answering questions he explained that however much prep he does at the end of the day , unless the background story is actually represented in the film it has to stay ot of it, it is for him to have internalised it or read about it and get some ideas but not for the audience to observe it ; it’s about the character now and where he goes next.

On film-making in general he feels he has somewhat a director’s brain in that he has a very vivid image about the set up and then it can sometimes be difficult to adapt to a very different one coming from the director 😉 CG said she would like to see him direct, he would be keen too but is an awe of all the women who can , like Delpy or Bullock, he could never multitask like that because once in front of the camera he is absorbed by the acting and could not go back and forth between behind and in front of the lens. My thoughts were two-fold.. he does seem to have a wonderful imaginative brain that paints around the script and pieces everything together with a million threads and he should employ it at least as a trial in directing once 🙂 But the fact he gets so absorbed in the acting also says to me… that is what he is deep down, instinctively. In both instances he is a story teller! Through the character , but able to see beyond that , because of the way he integrates himself in the whole. Question is would he be able to separate himself from the character to tell the story from outside? 🙂 And hopefully even if he does try I hope he doesn’t cross over permanently since he is so good from the acting perspective and also enjoys disappearing in it so much! I’d feel a terrible loss being able to be part of his stories just from an outside narrator perspective…

There were also interesting debates about the business aspect of film making. And it is one aspect where according to his own statements, but also his stance, his tone and his whole attitude he’s clearly benefited a lot from his time in NY. If you want to be a player at that level it’s not enough to be passionate and good at the craft, these days you have to be savvy about the business of film as well. He’s learned to be more cold and determined in asking for roles and pursuing them, more active. In spite of what he says is he passive nature and the tendency of all English actors to be a bit apologetic about wanting to act and feeling rather grateful when they get work 😉 America teaches you to be more hard-nosed about that, both admitted, and for the better in one’s career.

Responding to questions and continuing the comparisons he spoke appreciatively of writing in the UK industry, of scripts that hardly need touching when they come out of a single talented writer. Whereas in the US the writers’ room can by necessity become a machine when they need to churn 22-23 eps and when character continuity and story continuity can become difficult and he’s experienced that as well. But they felt that especially in the past US benefited from more roles and bigger budgets. Uk indies have grown but there is still enormous pressure and in spite tax allowances it can still service the US filming with less stuff being made for here. They were both very sympathetic to the struggles faced by indies and he mentioned that although he was really have Urban was getting a ‘soft release’ via internet he was still a bit sad it wouldn’t see the big screen.

He became wistful though about the English roots of his acting and drawing on some of the tradition and subject matter and the story telling vs just the psychological profiling in some US writing. He mentioned a great Stephen Poliakoff script he had read but he had unfortunately not be able to do and mentioned several women writers , Sandy Wainwright for example he appreciated. There was a gentle determination whenever he mentioned people to talk about the female directors and writers. And I very much appreciated that as it was unprompted but very clear from his side 🙂

This discussion on the business side was quite extended and I hope the video will be made available for those who want to know more about the issues. There was interesting insight of how the US industry works for actors re unions and the like there compared to here and how it influences them getting more work, as foreigners not being part of the unions themselves etc. While I agree the tax allowance hasn’t been the solution for industry here (although it gives many people a living and has developed technical talent like never before, which is a great thing) and in sheer quantity the amount of TV and film in the US creates more roles, I disagree in variety of roles and material. But it wasn’t the place or rather there was sadly no time to expand this further. (eg x cops and doctors shows plus x sci-fi/monster series or action movies/blockbusters certainly employ more people and guarantee more people can earn a living in the US from the business than probably in Europe in total; but from the perspective of watching somebody who is more talented than just the ‘making a living’ I doubt or question rather that currently, given existing writing, quantity gives variety. I am in two minds about this discussion… I would love to hear their thoughts and hope there would be a non-controversial or polite way of raising it and wish I had been brave enough to do so… but I wasn’t and I don’t want to stir the pot to be honest. Ultimately although there is the quantity, he seems to want more from roles which is maybe why he leans towards indies with different stories. Ultimately, I am not at all concerned that he would end up doing 10 years of one series 🙂 Not at this stage anymore, don’t see him wanting that for himself).

Last, but not least, he mentioned some projects and ideas or collaborations which he I still working on or hoping to realise in the future, like the Oedipus trilogy with Yael Farber or which maybe they could even make a film as she is trying to get into that, his own interest in Bridget Cleary and the idea to make a small version film of the Crucible if they do manage to convince the Miller estate to let them. It was a surprise to see he still hasn’t let go of John Proctor 🙂

All this was punctuated by a lot of gushing from Caroline Goodall, which we all approved of and smiled about and where he silently picked at his fingertips ;-), by the disclosure that Capotondi who he likes, sadly thought they had too much chemistry in the once scene together in BS so it got shortened and by general hilarity about the fates of English actors in US films talking to each other in and learning American accents. Prompting Richard again to air his ‘flaws’ 😉 and reminding Caroline that at the first BS reading when he tried to impress her with his American accent she said in all honesty: ‘Ahhh, so you’re Irish!!!’ She nearly fell of her chair in laughter and he laughed along embarrassed at his early attempts. He had earlier commented in context that he has now realised that he has to stay in his US accent for it to be consistent which he has done on the Lodge.

He’s also learned to like improvisation during the Lodge, which he wasn’t a big fan of before but feels that if he prepares beforehand he can be more free doing that too.
There is a wonderful sense of freedom, curiosity and desire to expand, learn, experiment about him combined at the same time with confidence in sound approach that is fascinating and makes me respect his professionalism very much. Makes you definitely want to see the product of his efforts 😉 Makes me want to brave stories I might otherwise not, just to discover a new conflicted person he brings on screen.

And then there is that focus and curiosity and openness turned on each person asking a question, the intent listening and wondering what people want to know about, what they are curious about and want to learn about. Makes one infinitely curious about those instances in work where he gets to ‘spar’ in a way on visions about characters and stories.

His hands talked as much about his emotions and thoughts as did his voice and it would be a lie to pretend one isn’t as fascinated about their language too. And when he was listening I got distracted or rather put at ease by his steady breathing more than once. (If you don’t know what I mean go get yourself on youtube to one of his many press junkets and tune out the interviews and watch him sit there breathing 😉 ). One of the quiet pleasures in the world of being a fan.

It’s an undeniable pleasure to see him act, but it is almost equally fascinating to hear him think and talk about what goes on behind the acting and I am grateful he is willing to open up the discussion and let us be part of it. It’s rare and not many actors I think are open to this level of sharing and complexity of discussion outside their profession, actors’ studios and the like. It is entirely special and done in his very unique way. I was wrong in expecting there to be little interaction during the day, apart from the autograph signing and photos which followed the Urban screening later on (and which I’ll leave for a part 2). He gave not only of his time generously (having made his way there on his own with no assistance ), but there certainly was interaction. And there is so much more to ‘interaction’ than a signature and a photo. Maybe I felt it unconsciously before , forever interested in his interviews and fascinated by the live versions of his QAs, but I certainly know it know. This is interaction! And he brought not just his physical presence to it, but his mind, his ideas, his passions and even some of his trials and tribulations and he shared those rather generously and with detail and consideration, with acknowledgement of our interest and serious and I’d say respectful response to it. I feel more conscious and thankful of it than ever. (And not a jot emotional about it all, nope!).

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Still Esther’s treasure 🙂

 

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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

 

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.’