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

 

Crucible anniversary gift

My preciousssssss

My preciousssssss

On a beautiful green island lives a shrine fairy with a really big heart. Her name is Guylty and she has a special gift of magic: she wriggles her delicate fingers in the air and pufff!!! little magic tins appear. They are full of jewels, toys, memories and love and no matter how often you open the tin the love inside always seems to grow and the jewels always sparkle.

Somehow the fairy knew exactly who this little RAPS was for and because she could also look into the souls of the intended owners and guess all their secret wishes she knew exactly what spells to put inside:

across the Thames from each other, 2 places i love :) Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there is sparkle in all the right places

across the Thames from each other, 2 places i love 🙂 Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there is sparkle in all the right places

She knew the places H loved most in the big city on the big river and she felt it was exactly one year ago that H discovered she had room for more in her <3. H had discovered theatre could really be just as exciting as opera courtesy of one tall bearded actor in a ratty shirt. The fairy knew she just had to point to the signs and H would remember that she liked the actor because he could be very serious and passionate about his art but he also had a big heart 🙂

That smile outshines even the glitter-ball

That smile outshines even the glitter-ball

Both H and the fairy had a weakness for black leather so she giggled to herself when she chose the right photo for the shrine. And later, while looking at the RAPS H wiped a secret tear at the memory of tortured Proctor but she suddenly also remembered the warm and calm smile and gentle words the actor responded with when she told him how touched she had been by the play.

The fairy even knew exactly which poster H liked most and magically let it appear on the Old Vic wall which she had shrunk with her potion into the little silver tin. She said to herself: ‘must have lashes, H really likes the lashes!’.

And with a last look at the little treasure chest (‘ggg’):

From the tears on stage to the smiles outside :-) (more sparkle in the right places)

From the tears on stage to the smiles outside 🙂 (more sparkle in the right places)

she thought:’ i think she will have that anniversary celebration after all! ‘

And so she did!!!  When H discovered the magic tin she did a happy dance and thought to herself:’That fairy is really cool, she can guess all your secret wishes better than the genie in a bottle! And i can probably rub the tin just like i would the magic bottle, can’t i?’  😀

Olivier nominations 2015 x2!

–> Update, because i want to keep Yael Farber’s generous and thoughtful words with the news of the nomination so i can always go back to this post and remember the wonderful feeling of the day 🙂

What a day! Congratulations first of all to all the nominees!! Well done and it is a great achievement 🙂 Details of all nominations on the Oliviers page. I’ve tried not to think too much about awards as i’m not really objective in my opinions and i tend to care too much if people/stuff i like are in them and care too little if they are not (yes, sour grapes and all that 😉 ). But, i live in London and see a lot of plays and operas so on some level i always get involved, i hear about things, read reviews, have my own opinions. Less so with the BAFTAs, but even there i certainly care more about the BAFTAs than i do about the Oscars these days. Mainly because they are closer to my areas of interest and work.  The Oliviers are, as much as i understand, among the many local awards probably the most respected and coveted. Probably also because shows that tend to get generally really good reviews will be recognised at the awards, so there is a feeling of consistency. I was certainly interested this year as i’d seen more shows than usual; we’d discussed some predictions with friends, many of which were fulfilled. Some things i secretly wished would happen, but didn’t really dare to hope.. And then while being harassed from one meeting to the next on a truly horrible Monday the announcements hit and my cultural universes collided in the most amazing way! My two favourite artists in the whole wide world BOTH got nominated for an Olivier!!! Richard Armitage really, actually, wonderfully got nominated for his John Proctor in the Old Vic Crucible and… the one and only 😉 Jonas Kaufmann got his second nomination to an Olivier for Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut & Andrea Chenier/ Giordano, both for the Royal Opera House!! I never though i’d actually get an event where my opera and theatre interests would merge, or get to write a post where they would end up sitting naturally next to each other 🙂 I’ve always meant to ‘introduce’ them to each other around here but never found the time for a proper post and now reality has taken me by surprise! 🙂 Wonderfully so! I’m very pleased. Some things i understand much better, like the opera scene –> for one, it is much smaller than the theatre scene and i just have many more years of experience (i’ve guessed and actually agree with 90% of the nominations there – doesn’t make me any less happy to see it confirmed!). I am glad Richard Jones also gets some recognition, good opera directors like him are very few and far between and we need to really celebrate them. Especially considering the amount of tosh i’ve seen lately even at big international houses like the ROH. I can’t even begin to say how many times i have sat in a theatre recently and wished the opera directors were half as good as the theatre directors of the pieces if was seeing. And a lot of the plays were in modern settings, but none dipped into the pretentious, self-indulgent, navel-gazing concepts that i am frankly sick of seeing on the opera stage!  Having said that, all opera production nominated deserve their praise, they were good ones and we need more of these! As for Jonas himself, well in a way it is long overdue really, i think he actually deserved it back in 2007 when he was Don Jose in Carmen at the ROH, which was certainly some of the best singing in this role i ever heard and without a doubt the best acting of it on an opera stage 🙂 Not that Chenier wasn’t amazing, it certainly was some of the best singing at the ROH in years 🙂 But the Oliviers are very ‘London’ and West- end. Weirdly it can take some time even for an international star to become a household name in London, an integral part of its artistic live. And i think Jonas truly become part of ‘London artistic life’ over the last 12 months when he’s spend more time than ever here, did two new productions very successfully, was present at all kinds of artistic events around town, sang to the locals and subscribers at the Wigmore, stepped outside the boundaries of classical music listeners on BBC Radio3 and really connected with the general public, he even got invited to Desert Island Discs! (as a friend of mine put it, it’s a sign you have ‘arrived’ in London if you are on DID!). It seems he finally has and i wouldn’t actually be surprised if he won it this time round. And he better put his tux on and come to London and be there if it happens! 🙂 I know his shelves are heaving with awards but this is the Oliviers! And hey, the Olivier ceremony happens at the Royal Opera House, it’d be just like coming to his second home 😉 and here he is, the Chenier’s last poem before the execution (it’s a cheeky filming one so that is why it is wobbly, but you’ll get the idea i think 🙂 ) and here is a euronews video clip about the opera, unfortunately i can find it in many languages, but not English, this is the German version In terms of theatre there is much more variety and there are trends that can go in opposite directions. People tend to say theatre in London is more traditional, but actually it is ‘story driven’ and good story telling is paramount. Because  of that there is maybe less appetite to ‘go crazy’ with concepts on stage which is why i think critics tend to push and favour innovation. So the directors who will manage to be innovative and modern but also tell a story well will certainly be featured significantly at awards. Acting is generally of a very high standard and there are significant amounts of new plays being written and staged. It’s probably the most competitive theatrical environment in the world and at the same time it is big business. There is old and well established acting tradition, but there is also ‘establishment’ and a constant tension with trying to be innovative, fresh, open and particularly on the talent side that is an uphill battle. There may be a slight whiff of snobbism towards actors with a TV background rather than a classical theatre path but that is easily overridden by the quality of performance and because the public tend to be experienced and knowledgeable, they are also demanding and it’s often the case that the very good plays and performances will result in extended runs. This year’s nominations are a refection of all these kinds of sometimes conflicting trends. Check out the play with by far the biggest numbers of nominations and you’ll see the push for innovation and change 🙂 And the wide spread of awards among plays is surely an attempt to give recognition to many outstanding performances and plays during last year. (By the way Olivier nominations seem to run from the last one to the nomination day as some things i thought were highlights of last year were actually nominated in 2014 and some things nominated in 2015 i haven’t seen yet and the run is ongoing). I am very very happy that the Oliviers finally gave recognition to the Crucible! I think they wanted to send  clear message considering what has happened at other awards in town. It’s certainly quite extraordinary how they chose to message their appreciation of the play, they decided to single out only 1 individual! Which i think is quite extraordinary in itself! “An imposing Richard Armitage starred in internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber’s chillingly atmospheric, exhilarating take on Arthur Miller’s classic American drama.” Although they give credit to Yael for the production, she’s actually not individually nominated under directors. I do think that is a pity as i think she was a significant catalyst in the final product. But they singles out one extraordinary performance: “Richard Armitage provided a colossal presence at the heart of The Crucible, playing a prowling John Proctor, whose very being balanced on a knife edge.” Considering how often Richard has stressed that for him this was an ensemble work i wonder how this sits with him, i don’t think he fully agrees with them 🙂  But however he may feel about being singled out like this, it still is our right as well as the Olivier’s choosers to point the finger at him and say: ‘accept it or not, we feel you were outstanding and special’ (deal with it!):-) Let’s remember what Richard thought of John Proctor (DT interview for the cinema) – and the look in his eyes pretty much tells the story of how much Proctor meant to him 🙂 And here are some more insights from a recent interview in Theatermania. (try that kind of schedule, opera singers of the world 😉 …just kidding!) I don’t know why they chose the way they did, but i fully agree about the extraordinary and unique quality of his individual performance. And i agree from the perspective of having seen quite a few of the nominees of 2014 as well as 2015. For me the Crucible means more than the other nominees, but that’s also because the play itself is closer to my heart as a story in itself. Although many of the others fascinated and interested me and even touched me, this one reached deepest. I don’t know who will win, i can sort of make an educated guess, which wouldn’t surprise me. But of course a little sparkle of hope is always there, who knows 🙂 I am just pleased that the acting community has given him a big thumbs up for his talent and exceptional work. Come back and do more, Richard! There are other nominations i’m also very happy about, here is just one of many: Wheeldon’s ballet interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous Winter’s Tale was one of my dance highlights from last year. A classical, full length narrative ballet is a rarity these days and everything about this was fantastic, from the original music to the brilliant choreography and dancing. It was the RB at its very very best!  But, there are also some unforgivable omissions, one of which is really huge and i am very sure i will not be the only one asking why??? Helen McCrory’s breathtaking, shattering Medea at NT is missing from the best actress nominations. I’ve seen 3 Greek plays in the past year and this was by far the best production and the best performance (much much more powerful in my opinion than the Electra at the Old Vic… ‘establishment’). I also find it rather sad that Adrian Schiller’s Hale isn’t on the supporting actors nominations; there are many ensemble members of the Crucible worthy of recognition but in comparison to other performances nominated in the category i thought his was much more powerful, human and convincing. I also thought the lighting for the Crucible was by far the best i’ve seen … sadly i think these details have fallen victim to the perceived ‘traditional’ nature of the production and the general desire to recognise innovation… But, there is more recognition than i was expecting and i am very happy about that. I’m less happy that fate has given me this gift and at the same time delivered a strong blow to my backside…. So, given my two boys will be celebrated in London in April you’d think i’d be there to say a Bravo and celebrate as well, but no.. the ceremony happens on a day i’m actually not even in the UK and i won’t even be able to watch it.  It’s a downer of incredible proportions as the likelihood of both of them being at the same event ever again is a big fat zero… The one thing that would maybe compensate me for not being able to be in London for this is both of them winning it! Now i wonder what are the chances of that? 🙂 Crossing fingers… and toes…

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.’

Looking back some more at 2014 (yes, the Crucible, finally)

Sorry for the unintentional cliff-hanger, but my fingers needed some rest and so did my brain after reliving quite a bit of the past year. I’ve also decided to continue in a new post once I realised the length of the previous.

So where was I? Ah, here.

Sorry for pinching the photo/cap. I wasn't able to find where i got it from, so if it belongs to you please let me know and i will credit appropriately.

Richard Armitage & Adrian Schiller The Crucible Old Vic 2014 (Sorry for pinching the photo/cap. I wasn’t able to find where i got it from, so if it belongs to you please let me know and i will credit appropriately.)

And then there was the epic & life changing! Or life with and after The Crucible.

There have been a few things over the years that I have seen and which I know I will always remember, but the ones with a permanent impact on the way I feel and thing are very few (I’m strictly speaking about live performances here).

Seeing Wagner’s Ring for the first time I think is something that makes an impact on anyone who experiences it. It certainly was the first time I lost sleep over performances for prolonged periods of time, but I saw 3+ full ones over a period of just 3 weeks and a lot of it had to do with the cumulated impact of it and the sense of accomplishment and shared depth of experience, especially the very last Gotterdammerung, it felt as if we had been on a journey together with everyone on stage, in the pit and also the production team. It didn’t completely change the way I understand Wagner’s music but it made a significant impact, the journey had begun before that as the Ring was almost the last of his operas I discovered. It was also one of the productions I’ve enjoyed most, The Crucible had the sense of shared journey and physical impact of long hours spent in a theatre in common.

But while musically Wagner and especially the Ring was more pushing against some boundaries and expanding on existing experience, the Crucible proved to be something else entirely.

It came about as an almost random decision to see some theatre at the suggestion of a friend. As I have mentioned before, I’ve seen far less theatre in my life and am much less familiar with plays, especially those which can be considered contemporary. I’d started dipping my feet back into theatre a couple of years ago in London and discovered that I was generally comfortable enough with the language so that it wasn’t a barrier at all in enjoying the plays, not even in what Shakespeare was concerned. I also found acting I had experienced on London stages natural and unselfconscious which started changing my previous impressions of live performances. As as you now know from my previous posts 2014 was the year when theatre provided me with some amazing experiences already, so I was revved up to see a play I hadn’t experienced before and also discover the Old Vic.

I can’t claim it was either the play or any actor in particular that made me buy the ticket, it was the element of novelty and my exploration of theatre in general. I suspect the combination of excitement, what you could probably call an open mind and the complete lack of knowledge about the piece (I knew of Miller but didn’t know the play) created the perfect conditions for a truly unique and surprising experience.

It was the start of a few journeys…

  • A very personal one of remembrance and rediscovery of personal and family past lived under conditions which were in many ways similar to what the play depicts;
  • One of reassessing cultural and social values, beliefs about what art means in society and as a consequence for me personally
  • And discovery of a new passion for a particular actor, his fandom and all that this encompasses 🙂

All these things literally invaded my mind from the first night I saw the play, all at once I might add and it felt like I couldn’t turn either brain or emotions off. The reason I mentioned the Ring before was because it’s the only other thing that left me unable to sleep for many days and where I would not feel tired at all and wide awake, in a prolong state of emotional excitement? 😉 A gentle way of describing it I guess. Except this was much more. It wasn’t easy to process this and focus on daily things at the same time; but in a way you shut things off as much as you can during work and so on and it invades you back as soon as your mind is not otherwise engaged, ie mostly at night.

I’m not sure if it was a good or a bad thing to keep going back to it over the summer, I saw the first one early in July and the last one mid September (the last performance of the run). For my own sanity I was glad the run stopped there 😉 and some of the journeys I’d been on I felt I could now close off or at least I had come to some conclusions, while others would go on way beyond any run of theatre.

Having said that normality was not restored for long,  as BOTFA kicked in and the Crucible came back in the cinemas in what proved to be an all to short time from the run in the theatre. And I ended up seeing it almost as many times as I had in the theatre. Christmas break I guess saved me from myself 😉

The first time I saw the Crucible it felt shocking to see on stage and hear spoken back at me discourses and the kind of rhetoric I had thought buried in the past, done with. It had all ended 20 years ago and truth be told I never looked or thought back at it. Life had moved on so much, but suddenly it all felt so real again, all lies and twisted logic, intimidating, frightening and very present. Everything inside me recoiled and was screaming ‘no!no!no!’. The oppression, the corruption fear brings in society, everything all too familiar. It may not have been religious in nature, but it certainly was very similar. The way it brings out the worst in people and highlights every character flaw, the way some people will play along and use oppression to achieve their own goals, the way everything is tainted by lies.

And it reminded me of all the other lies, the silences, the things that never got talked about and still aren’t, the fact that we had learned to live with it, with all the twisted ways and the whispers about the people who disappeared. It’s the bad things that came back first, I guess because they represented a majority of reality. But once I got over the first shock of recognition I went back to the last act, to RA’s Proctor and he reminded me of terrible stories unearthed once the turn had come, but also memories from my childhood, shreds that I had never pieced together at that age and things that happened around me but were not discussed . There had been a whole generation, that of my grandfather, who didn’t grow up with the lies, who knew a different life and never came to accept what had become. And I remembered how he used to listen to the radio at night, how he went to church on Sundays all his life although it was frowned upon, how him and his friends used to get together and talk, not whisper. Sadly he didn’t get to enjoy freedom for very long as right before the change the regime tore down the house he had built with his own hands and he never quite recovered from the pain. But this summer I’ve spent a lot of time remembering him and pieced together a different image than just that of a loving grandfather, an image of the man he was, different from the people who had been changed by living in a twisted world. He was a farmer by the way 🙂 Yes, John Proctor, or rather Armitage’s John Proctor helped me find my way back to him and they were in many ways similar. It has made me sad to remember many of the things in the past, but it made me feel mostly frustrated and disappointed in myself that I had not thought about them before, considered the consequences, not to judge (as who’s to judge what people end up doing for survival?) but to learn and realise that we have to accept the past and understand it to prevent it from ever happening again.

All of this didn’t happen over night 🙂 It was lucky I was able to go back again and again and see the play and think some more over a long period of time. And it was interesting to observe the reaction of the public to it. I still don’t know how people perceive it, how much of it feels real to them? Between Miller, Yael and all the actors I felt every night the story was real, playing right in front of me with the same intensity. I can’t imagine a better interpretation or one closer to what real life is like under such circumstances. I can only hope it impacted people who have been lucky not to experience anything similar in their lives and that it helped the audience understand a bit how oppression, fear work and how hard it is to fight against the flow. How precious the normality that we know is and how fragile it can be. Therein lies for me the power of art, to remind, to show, to make us feel things we otherwise wouldn’t, to say and do the things we can’t in normal life. It may sound a bit cliché but I felt the Crucible was one of those plays that really can change things, such as it was presented at the old Vic it had to be seen, it had to be felt. I don’t know if it is what they set out to achieve but I think it is what happened in the end.

The way Richard immersed himself in Proctor, all guns blazing, heart, skin and soul reminded me that where I lived among those who had spoken out and couldn’t really be silenced were many artists, writers, actors, singers. They are people who have a stronger inner fire I think, whose aspiration for the ideal does not drown as easily in normal life; whatever it is that drives them, they are able to gather our wishes and thoughts and express them and inspire us to follow. The often dare to do or say what we only think. We need them to remind us of the best in us I think. At least Richard’s Proctor reminded me of that and of many artists in my past who had made a difference where others couldn’t.

Which is why, even if I may never again experience something quite like this Crucible I owe it to myself to put myself out there, experience things, go see theatre, read books I haven’t, absorb art, let it challenge me, let it change me, think about it and talk about it 🙂 I’ve come to the conclusion after all the pondering that I’m anything but brave, but that as much as I can I will try not to let silence be an option in things that matter.

There was a lot more in the play that touched me and the personal and intimate level really connected with me too and I think the actors were as brave to plays this intimacy so real as they were convincing in the big gestures, it made them human, believable. Without the personal connections, the support, love and friendship the important gestures would not be possible either and this is also something I took away from the Crucible.

If I sound like I need a shrink after all this, don’t worry 😉 As the badge I’ve gotten from a dear friend as a gift on my dreaded birthday this year says: “friends! So much cheaper than a psychiatrist :-D”

I haven’t done the Crucible alone but with friends; I blame my Armitageitis on a friend, as I keep reminding her of, since she insisted we buy the tickets and another one gave me hers thus enabling more Richarding ;-); I owe the only face to face encounter to yet another dear friend . And I found new ones on the journey too, to share the Crucible with, and Richard and many other things. It’s lead to silly and fun things like standing in the cold for hours at the BOTFA premiere, to ruinous things like the many BOTFA viewings! (Rich, you owe me a pair of your chic socks!), to hopefully good things like reviving my blogging, to definitely great things in discovering I have more than a passing passion for photography 😉 and positive things like ‘spreading some love’. So thanks to all you lovely ones and the current readers and future ones, you’ve saved me a massive bill!

And make me smile every day 🙂

So, not an easy year but a busy one, a very intense one in fact, leaving me feeling energised and more purposeful and very enriched and very very grateful for it.

Thank you everyone who has been part of the journey and hope you’ll all be there for a while longer 🙂

Aaaah… before I forget, thanks Richard for inspiring me in so many ways! A pleasure bumping into you on the journey and hopefully see you soon 🙂

(well, in fact there is this BOTFA IMAX thing tomorrow.. but that’s for 2015 😉 )