An unexpected… stage door (Richard Armitage, Old Vic)

Sorry for the rather long introductions, I guess it’s a bit of warm-up writing that I do without realising it, feel free to skip ahead.

Gratuitous photo, just because i like it 😉 (by Lefteris Pitarakis at Old Vic, RA of course)

This is a bit overdue I know, but I tend to spend sometimes 10h a day at work on a pc and sometimes at the end of the day I just don’t want to see the thing anymore. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to talk at you PC and the stuff to get typed up by magic ? 😉 I  bet there is a way but I’d feel weird talking at my computer, so typing it has to be.

You could say I got the right motivation yesterday to getting on with writing 😉 I was off into town to see an Otello at the English National Opera and as often on weekends it was absolute traffic mayhem. I ended up having to get the tube in a rush and it was hot and overly crowded with tourists trying to find their way and me trying to get to where I needed to be rushing up and down stairs, corridors and escalators. And just when I was near the end of my patience, juggling my stuff and puffing air to cool down, slowly sliding down another escalator I looked at the posters running along the wall besides me and there they were… 2 Crucible posters! And there I was in a sudden bubble of calm, looking back into Armitage’s eyes and slowing looking back at the other one with eyes closed, downcast. And I turned on my escalator step and smiled 🙂

I suspect they will be gone soon altogether, but not quite yet. I almost wish I had one of them as they were the later ones with the stars from the reviews on them, while the ones the theatre sold didn’t have them. But I’m not sure I’d want one with the grime of the tube on it 😉

But it was a lovely ‘encounter’ nevertheless and took me back into the ‘zen’ feeling of this summer and out of everyday London stress.

I was telling my friend about it later that evening after the show, as we shared a pizza close to Trafalgar square, not realising the man himself was barely a few meters away watching the last of ‘Wagglestaff’s’ (sic!) Richard III at the Trafalgar studios ;-)*.

It was almost like a mini-version of the ‘encounter’ at the stage door earlier the summer, a very pleasant surprise.

It’s not like I’ve never been to stage doors before. They’re more common around the opera going folk than you might think. In my experience people don’t mind having a brief chat after a show about particulars of it, their roles, singing and such. And sometimes I’ve enjoyed the show so much I really want to say thank you personally or just say that it’s nice to hear and see somebody perform again. But that is bar a few exceptions a small world of familiar faces in familiar surroundings. I’ve grown up around this stuff, I’m rarely lost for words 😉 Besides, there are always several exits and entrances, so when people don’t feel well or just don’t feel like a chat they leave privately, so you know you’re never really intruding if you stop by a stage door.

Why do people feel the need to get closer to the artists or see them in person? I have no clue really. Some people want photos with them in it or just the artist, some people have autograph books. I guess everyone expresses their passion in different ways and needs different things to remind them of special occasions. I’m not a photo person; because I really don’t want my picture floating about everywhere I’m highly unlikely to ever show a picture of myself with some famous ‘x’ around. My face is for family and friends alone to see 😉 No need to impose it upon the world. I like sharing my experience, but I sort of don’t need much tangible proof it happened. Same usually goes with autographs on tickets. Instead, I’d much rather talk to the person as it’s usually what brings me to the stage door in the first place: I’ve enjoyed myself sososo much I just have to say how wonderful I thought it was.

Also, if you try and do the lot, photo, signature, chat it feels like a bit much, there are more people around wanting to say or have something and I also appreciate after a show artists will want their well deserved peace,  so I feel comfortable with taking a few seconds or even minutes, but not much more. There are circumstances when it’s all organised and you can’t really say hello without a Cd, a programme to sign and I have both a few Cds I absolutely love which I’ve gotten signed and a few incidental pictures I have which remind me usually of very funny moments.

Don’t get me wrong I like looking at other people’s pictures most of the time and the few signatures I have do mean a lot to me, but exchanging a few words with the artists just means more as it sort of makes it real. It means I was there that night I remember and what I saw on stage wasn’t just an illusion 🙂

The risk with such things is always that reality doesn’t always live up to the artistic experience you’ve just had. But on occasions it’s just the cherry on top, an altogether pleasant experience that makes the evening perfect. I guess it’s all in the very delicate balance of doing only what you feel comfortable with, in surroundings that you feel safe in and comfortable with and also feeling that the artists themselves are comfortable in the situation. Whether they actually enjoy the experience themselves is hard to tell, but I always assume they are grown up people, they don’t HAVE to do this if they dislike it and when they’ve had enough it is their decision to leave 🙂 It’s up to me to behave in a way I feel is respectful towards them, but that’s about as much as I can do from my side.

It all gets complicated when you don’t have 5 people having a relaxed chat with somebody, but hundreds of people wanting a 1-1 with an artist. In these situations I’ve had the worst experiences possible and, unless it was a fully organised signature session, it’s rarely been pleasant or special. In most cases crowd control was pretty rude and you get the ‘crazy fan’ treatment, which does away with any feeling of enthusiasm. Or people get so caught up in the moment they forget about the people next to them and it can get dangerous. I’ve had to extricate myself once from such a crowd with bruised ribs and feet and it’s put me off nearly forever from getting near a bigger crowd again. This means that for both our and the artist’s safety when there are loads of people barriers have to come up, frequently physical ones, and it becomes by default distanced and impersonal, which kind of does away with the reason for approaching a stage door to begin with…

With all this in mind I have to say I never even considered going to the Old Vic stage door to begin with. I don’t associate artists from the big screen with reality, well, not with my reality anyway 😉 I understand a lot about singing, but I have little clue about acting, what would I say? It was good? Well, my hands are red from clapping, what more could words say?

And I’d peeked around the corner of the building and seen the crowds, looked like a lot of people. Besides, people were saying it was getting increasingly rushed and you could read the disappointment between the lines. The show was so incredible and made me feel so much, why would I risk feeling sad after it or disappointed?

Trouble is, after seeing it more than once it becomes much more than just a show and you start wondering who these people are who can produce such performances? I’d already slipped and gushed a couple of babbling words to Adrian Schiller at the bar after 1 of the shows, but that’s 2 seconds in a place you’re already there with friends for drinks  and you haven’t sought out on purpose and not the crowds at stage door. Not ready to brave that for the ‘man-himself’ as he was so extraordinary on stage I doubted a glimpse at stage door could improve on that in any way and I was rather fearful that perfect image would get some kind of irreparable crack instead.

About mid-way through ‘my’ run a friend was going to come and see it and I knew she would like her ticket signed as a memento of the evening. I ended up promising I’d come along with her, I have to admit however fully intending to dissuade her from trying on accounts of big crowds and us having to catch last bus home. At the same time it had just been my other friends’ birthday (the one who took me to the Crucible and introduced me to the knowledge of the ‘man-himself’ in the first place!). Having failed to win the signed champagne bottle for her (duh!) I’d bought her a book with Miller’s plays as a surprise consolation present and was playing around with the idea of getting it signed, which would have made it more special. So I hadn’t given her the book yet, debating the idea and thinking that she didn’t know about it so no harm done if it was unsigned, it would still be something to link us both to the memories of the Crucible summer. I did stuff it in my bag that night as I set off to the Old Vic, just in case.

I went ahead with my plan to discourage my friend however and explained the cue was up to the front entrance and our bus would leave at 11,50 so I thought it would be unwise to try the stage door; besides it would be rushed so maybe we better just leave and just spend some time chatting at home about the show instead. She said a non-committal ‘let’s see’. ( yes I know I was being a pain!)

On with the show, which was amazing and I was lucky enough to be able to watch from the back of the stalls this time. We lingered about a bit taking in the atmosphere before leaving, looking at the ashes on the floor while people were rushing to pick up pieces of the confession; I nearly stepped on one the girls’ headscarf which had been left on the floor and picked it up taking it back to an usher who smiled surprised I didn’t want to keep it. It just felt like every scarp belonged to the show and I just couldn’t take away a bit of it, as if it just didn’t belong it my time or something. Although I continued to find pieces of ash which fell out of my clothes for a couple of days after 🙂 Maybe I had time- travelled a bit too 😉

I said ‘let’s get some fresh air’ as we both needed to clear our minds and she said  ‘oh look this door opens onto the street’ and out we went… straight into the stage door cue! I stopped on the doorstep saying ‘we’re not staying are we? I think we should be going to catch the bus’ but she’d found two other German ladies right next to us and said ‘oh we might as well stay since we’re here’. I mumbled a frustrated ‘oookay’  and since the door had closed right behind me, proceeded to lean into the corner wondering how the hell I’d ended up there. She proceeded to chat animatedly to the really nice 2 ladies and I mumbled grumpily along looking at my watch every couple of seconds impatiently. No, I can’t actually tell you how much time passed, as I didn’t really look at what I was doing other than getting really nervous. She said smilingly ‘stop complaining, we’ll be out of here in no time, I’m sure he’s coming out soon’. I felt really bad for being a right pain in the *** but I couldn’t really help myself. After all I could have insisted we leave for the bus but I had stuck around!

At which point I suddenly remembered the book! I finally had a purpose for being there. So I fumbled for it in my bag and took it out and explained to my friend what I was planning to do. It would have helped if I’d had a look at the book before as I was trying to find a half empty page somewhere at the beginning in the dark.

All the while a really nice and polite security guard had passed twice along the line asking us to please stand in one line. I had no clue where we were in line or how many more people were behind us as I was still safely tucked away in the corner of the door.

And then suddenly movement began, I figured ‘man-himself’ had appeared as the cue suddenly became restless and my view was obscured by the people to my right who were eager to take pictures and stepped in front.

Fumbling with the book I thought ‘not long now’ and told my friend to get her ticket ready to make sure she got her signature lest he rushed past and missed her. (Yep, when I’m bloody nervous I tend to order people around!).

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw him in front of the people next  to/before me in the cue, a young women and her boyfriend and there was some confusion about cameras and photos as all I could hear was RA saying: ’yes, where is the camera? Where is the camera? Where is the camera?’ They had by now both stepped in front of me and were taking pictures with phone and camera and she was asking if she could take a picture with him. After some confusion the picture was finally taken and they had turned to watch him from in front of me. Suddenly he was past them and in front of my friend who was to my left and he signed her ticket. I didn’t hear a thing as I must have been completely entranced just watching him. She told me on the way home as we exchanged impressions she’d said thanks and probably noticing her accent he’d said ‘thank you very much for coming’.

He didn’t look nearly as tall as I expected it. Don’t know why I was surprised as I’m fairly tall myself so he wouldn’t tower over me, but still I expected to have to look much higher up to see his face. The utter surprise was however how in the general excitement and buzz around me he sounded so soft and calm, with a really warm tone of voice.

I thought ‘hurray, she got the ticket signed! Phew, thank God we didn’t miss him’ and, as I was probably gawping, the strangest thing happened. He’d stopped in front of her and looked up and straight at me, smiled and took a sudden step towards me in my corner and I remembered I was still holding the book!  He’d seen it and reached for it as I extended my hand and after he signed I suddenly remembered I had a voice and broke out into ‘ it was so wonderful, thank you very much! It was so so emotional… and ..gasp.. Harrowing!’ (yes, groan.. I know! So smart and composed!) While still holding the book he’d lifted his head again, looked me in the eyes while I was mumbling, smiled and said in that warm sweet , soft voice ‘Bless you!’ … and then he was gone.  There was no rush in his gestures at all, in fact, it was almost as if he moved in slow motion, in a rhythm all of his own, with a bubble of calm surrounding him and from the moment he’d looked at me his time was all mine for those few seconds. I didn’t feel at all rushed either and he didn’t look like he was going to step away while I was talking, if only I’d thought of a few more things to say 😉 he’d let me finish my 2 thoughts, smiled and reacted to them and only then moved away.

It was really… well, wonderful 🙂  And so not at all what I had expected or thought it would be.

I think my first words to my friend were: ‘sorry I was so against this, it was actually incredibly nice, wasn’t it?’ We stuffed our things in our bags, left the cue and waited a couple of minutes for the cue to finish and lingered in front of the theatre while people left taking a few pictures of the theatre at night.

We exchanged impressions with brimming wide smiles and agreed it had been the absolute perfect ending to a perfect night! We both were very thankful for the security arrangements and the way the Old Vic managed the cue. I was happy not to feel crowded in and to come away safely with no bruised ribs and feet. Yes, it being summer and being able to cue outside helped, but it was one of the best organised SD’s I’ve ever seen. It’s difficult to handle such things and I think they did a great job. I didn’t actually have to deal with anyone else’s behaviour but my own and that is something to be said amongst so many people present.

As to the ‘man-himself’? Well, as far as I could see and feel he’s great! Don’t know really why he came out every night, but he didn’t act as if it was a chore. I believe at least a bit of it was him probably thinking of the people who were there only once, like my friend, and who would only get that one chance, maybe ever, to say hello or get a photo or a signature. And the fact that he did think of such people every night speaks greatly of him. And I think he tried his very best to give everyone something so they wouldn’t regret waiting for him.

He’s really special in the way he does it too, letting people in, with no physical barriers, sort of extending this bubble of his own comfort around you for a few seconds and it makes you feel safe, welcomed and not at all as if you are intruding. That is nice and really sweet and I hope he’s felt how thankful we are for it, that we really appreciate it and that overall it’s been a pleasant experience for him as well,  because I believe the vast majority of people wanted to do just that, be thankful and nice back and not intrude 🙂

Oh, and my friend loved her book! She didn’t even mind that the signature on it was UPSIDE DOWN!!! ( oh yes, this is how out of it I really was, I didn’t clock that if I was holding the book as if I was reading it, he’d be signing it upside down, so now she has to turn it around if she wants to read his signature…. But hey, it’s unique this way, no? 😉 )

AP/ Lefteris Pitarakis ‘man-himself’ @Old Vic

PS I don’t remember much about the way he looked that night other than his features and eyes and the gentle smile. I think he wore a chequered jacket and maybe a white tshirt? It was the 23rd of August, so if anyone would like to share any photos i’d love to look at them 😉 thank you 🙂

….

*(Richard III aside)- Which I’ve seen by the way much earlier in the year, very Tarantino-esque, especially watched while being on stage, looked at by both audience and actors. A very interesting show,  which left lasting impressions, even if these are mixed.  Its’ a different sense of responsibility you get assigned to when you are literally displayed like that on stage, with the audience being in the dark looking straight at you, not at all like being in a round.  And very different in a play like this, which by its very nature does not create a natural emotional sympathy bond.  I was busy processing and busy keeping the processing away from my face and eyes, as I was constantly catching the eyes of actors and was conscious of only wanting to transmit interest and engagement and not distract or jar in any way with any of the conflicting thoughts running through my mind. Exhausting! Just goes to show there are many ways you can have stage seating and engage with the audience. But definitely worth experiencing 🙂

Saying goodbye to John Proctor (Crucible, Old Vic, 13th September 2014)

Richard Armitage as John Proctor by Jay Brooks

Richard Armitage as John Proctor by Jay Brooks

I won’t. Not at the end of last night’s Crucible and actually not ever. He’s part of me now as are all the 5 performances I’ve witnessed and most definitely last night’s. I know I’ll see the play again because it is a very very good one, but Armitage will always be ‘my’ Proctor to which all Proctors will be compared 🙂 And same goes for all the other characters in it who now feel so familiar to me.

I think it is somewhat easier for the actors to cope with the end of the run than for us the audience/fans.  It is what they do, they live within and with the characters for a few months, bond with colleagues, but then invariably move on to other characters and colleagues to very likely never return to what has just ended. This loss and rebirth as someone different is part of their lives. I don’t know how they do it and haven’t seen many talk about the process (but I haven’t looked specifically), it’s probably different for each person. But they are through experience better equipped to deal with it than us.

I’m not completely unused to this, I’ve done full runs of opera performances a number of times, because I love the performance as a whole and there is joy in discovering the evolution of the piece through performances. But there are only ever 6-7 of those in a run over what is usually about a 2 – 2 ½ week period. I’ve never been so close to a performance for a period of 3 months. And it creates a very different perspective and experience. It is no longer a performance I loved, it is literally 3 months of my life. It means I’ve had time in 3 months to think about it a lot, to view things in light of what the play expresses for me, to discover the actors again and again. And they have changed over their 100 performances (thereabouts, not counted) as well.

Because I started from absolute zero in this case I could have seen quite a few more to discover more nuances, more gestures… but this is potentially an infinite cycle because they play felt slightly different every time so there is always something new to discover 🙂

There comes a time, and I think 3 months is about right, when it’s right to stop the experimentation, the exploration for the simple fact that we have to accept it is potentially endless and never enough. With plays like the Crucible and performances such as we have witnessed,  the mystery will always be there, the complexity, all that you can see and sense and the sense at the same time that there is forever more behind it, inside it that we neither fully understand nor grasp.  But that sense of familiar and unknown is what will keep it alive in our memories. If we fully understood it and explained everything about it we would be able to close the door on it and would not be tempted to go back to our impressions and memories.

So I don’t say goodbye to it, I’m just accepting the transition from being inside of it and being overwhelmed by it, to it rather being inside of me where it’s burning much slower, but where I can go back to it whenever i search for it again.

I’m happy I was there last night, to get one last taste of it, not because the atmosphere was special ( it was by far the worst audience in all I’ve been) but because in most performances I was lucky to get those expressions and variations that I loved most across the run. It felt like my personal wishlist fulfilled 🙂 And that was a wonderful treat because I never expected it!  I’d like to thank every actor on stage, I couldn’t imagine this play without either of you, I’m sorry I’m not getting round to mentioning everyone separately but it was as good as it was thanks to each of you!

Natalie Gavin’s Mary Warren is very dear to me, the way that girl fights all her fears  to try and stand up for the right thing in court is beautiful and I will never understand why people had to laugh on some nights at her desperate attempts to faint in that scene. Last night only 2 of my neighbouring torturers laughed there and that was really good, that even last night’s unsettled audience recognised how wonderful she was. I also liked the way she stood up to Proctor in the 2nd act, she  felt like a rebellious teenager having a go at her parents in the fight for growing up and being responsible. She was lucky she met with a softer Proctor last night 😉 I think it’s a beautiful, natural and very believable character and she made me like Mary every single night and yesterday more than ever.

What was special last night as well was the friendship between William Gaunt’s  Giles Corey, Neil Salvage’s Francis Nurse and John Proctor. The little exchange between Proctor and Corey in act 1 about the lumber and Proctor being allowed to call him deaf was so warm, so good natured. A very manly, warm bond, these two fully understand each other, support each other, joke about each other. It was as if seeing a chat between 2 friends in a pub after work. 2 mates who have been friends all their life. The glee in Corey when he went to snub Putnam to support Proctor in the lumber dispute and the warm, loving smile on Proctor’s face when he told Corey he paid when he sued him for the privilege to call him deaf now. A perfectly tuned double act which is so lovely to see in stage. Which took on much more poignant aspects at the end of act 2 and in the court scene, the way both Francis and Giles try to support Proctor when Elizabeth is taken with small gestures like grabbing his hand and with much bigger gestures in court. I think I was so focused on the million other things going on in this play that the profound friendship and respect these 3 men share somehow registered more on a subconscious level. Well it certainly warmed my heart yesterday and it felt so real that maybe all 3 actors let some of their mutual respect shine through in their acting.

It is where I felt last night experience shone through, at this stage in the game to make the relationships more natural is amazing. Maybe it is a way of bringing in that feeling of respect, friendship that has developed over the last 3 months within the performance. After all they probably spent most of the time together on stage, so it is natural for that to be the bonding ground or natural expression not just of acting but of some element of personal feelings of appreciation too.

Jack Ellis changed his game again and this time rather than Mr Machiavelli who I liked so much last time we got a level of authority and force that literally wiped the floor with all of us. Ok, I had a personal moment of satisfaction when it came to the moment in which he points to the audience and tells them to be silent 🙂 But what I liked most was his last act, his anger and impatience at all these people who don’t follow his orders, can’t stick to the rules of the game and ask him to be lenient. The incredible level of shouting he managed to do left everyone speechless, but it is probably the expression of the character knowing that the ground is shaking under his feet and he is unable to hold his world together. You did want to kill him though when he was telling Elizabeth she was devoid of feeling. How Anna Madeley managed not to break down in sobs at those accusing words yesterday I don’t know to be honest. But yes, I suspect that Jack Ellis’ Danforth will be the one for me to beat  (and that will be pretty impossible of you ask me). He was magnificent last night!

What can I say about Adrian Schiller that I haven’t already said, hard to believe it if I hadn’t seen it that he managed to be even more human and broken last night. My favourite moments where his conversation in the Proctor household about the softness of their records, and his last words to them “God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday in to Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you.” They were said which such warmth and good intention, he really is the spirit of a reverend, I liked those few words very much because they were so well meant and said. Last night when he named himself a murderer he was hardly able to speak the word it pained and shamed him so. And when asked what he was doing there and he said: to do the devil’s work! Etc etc.. I think one can safely and truly said Hale’s suffering and shame had Procterian proportions and was as touching. From where I sat I saw him falling to the floor after they have taken Proctor away, in as much pain as Elizabeth herself for loosing Proctor. Hale to you, favourite reverend of mine… I think of many ministers and priests there are in plays that I never really find convincing and sympathetic on a human level at the same time, yours made me believe that in spite of mistakes and pride he starts out with, Hale is the reverend that does have some divine light in him (in the way that would help guide and counsel people).

Anna Madeley was the one half of what was for me yesterday the perfect couple! I could not have wished for or imagined a more beautiful portrayal of their lifelong relationship. She was soft and warm, but also showed character. It was for me the best mix of all nights I’ve seen in that she may not have expressed her love in words but it was there in her first exchanges with Proctor and especially in the anger with which she spat the word ‘whore!’ every time she mentioned Abigail. And oh was it beautiful and wonderful in her almost desperate ‘when you come to know that I will be your only wife, or no wife at all!’ Sometimes you felt her exchanges in the 2nd act came out of duty, religious conviction, sense of right and wrong but yesterday it was clearly love and passion! It was not about the rules of marriage and the dos and don’ts according to the Bible it was about what she felt and what hurt her and about possession out of love (as a friend of mine aptly put it). Proctor is hers and nobody else will have him 🙂 It was so passionate and so beautiful and satisfying to see and hear. She put last night some of the passion that she puts in words in act 4 in her expressions and tones in act2. To the point where I did wonder yesterday for the first time(!!!! Which goes to show how much one can still discover even at the last minute) how Proctor does not notice just how much she loves him!

In the end scene her incessant ‘it is not for me to forgive you’ and ‘do what you will’ felt truly torturous because she loves him just the way he is and she can’t make a decision like that, how could she and it is there and then that we see what Danforth was looking to see, her begging and suffering. Aren’t she and John a marvellous pair! Both so passionate and proud and not letting those ‘dogs’ have any of their suffering and tears!

Theirs last night was a beautifully human, lifelong relationship, with hickups and difficulties as life is, but filled with love and passion and care for each other where it counts. Me meet them in a difficult time with his mistake and guilt, her having been unwell for long and feeling betrayed and both not really finding the right words to hash the problems out. But there was never any shred of doubt about their love for each other 🙂 And the romantic in me just glowed and glowed 🙂

It’s maybe silly, because there is nothing to say this is the more valid version of the interpretation, but amongst all the tragedy and ugliness in the play I always needed this element of light to be equally strong. Basically I still want something beautiful and positive to feel amongst the anguish.

And then there was Richard Armitage, the artist.

It is sad to think we will never see him again be John Proctor on stage, but my God was his wonderful last night. I don’t know if actors remember what they actually did on stage or it sort of happens to them and within them. I think if I was to wish him something I’d wish for him to remember all of his last night’s Proctor because every single second of it was beautiful.

I’ve mentioned some instances above but there were so many many more! Starting with the wistful expression on his face when he comes back home and hears Elizabeth singing and starts taking his coat off and leaves the rifle and does it all so softly as if he doesn’t want to break the spell her singing puts on him. I couldn’t see it but I’ve been told he then washed himself almost violently, as if trying to wash the sin away from himself. And what follows is a dialogue filled with both sweetness and awkwardness. There was never a more sincere and heartfelt ‘I mean to please you, Elizabeth’ said! And it was said with softness and from the heart, not argumentative or trying to convince her of his actions. It was him saying those words but actually meaning ‘I love you, Elizabeth’. And her reply sounded as if this time she did believe him. And this time she didn’t completely reject his kiss and he was particularly gentle, but alas, she does turn away .  But it makes Proctor rather sad, not angry, when he asks her to bring flowers she is genuinely surprised and he carries on ( in a bit of a romantic mood Proctor tonight) trying to engage with her again. And there his was, my favourite incarnation of Proctor in this scene, the poet! Imagine these words said as if they burst out of his heart, with abandon, enchantment almost: ‘On Sunday let you come with me, and we’ll walk the farm together; I never see such a load of flowers on the earth. Lilacs have a purple smell. Lilac is the smell of nightfall, I think. Massachusetts is a beauty in the spring!’

You really really want her to say yes, let’s go…. But as we know she’s got the worries about Salem on her mind that she is trying to speak to him about and is distracted and when she doesn’t really engage with his mood, the sadness in his ‘I think you’re sad again. Are you?’ is almost unbearable…

And so the argument starts, although this time it is almost with reluctance on both sides. And there was somewhat more disappointment in his words than anger but his hesitations only make her more angry as it is obvious he has not been completely open with her.

What then becomes increasingly obvious from their exchange with Mary is that he sense the danger and you can feel the fear in both him and Elisabeth rising, he’s so preoccupied and worried that he doesn’t even shout at Mary when she argues around about going to bed or not.

I loved their next little exchange with him sitting Elizabeth down and practically kneeling at her feet. Yes they argue but what Armitage convey incredibly well is the increasing sense of shame throughout the conversation with Elizabeth when she rather bluntly tries to explain that he’s not got the full grasp of what expectations he’s opened in Abigail. He almost squirms in discomfort and his anger is an instant expression of it. And it is so evident on both their faces how the discussion brings back what each of them felt over these 7 months, her the hurt and suspicion and jealousy and him the shame of his mistake. The way his voice quaked with guilt in these words was incredible! ‘When will you know me, woman? Were I stone i would have cracked for shame this seven month!’ and the disappointment when he asks her if she truly thinks him so base…

He can’t forgive himself but he knows within himself as he already said to Abigail that he would rather cut his arm off than touch her again, but to him Elizabeth’s questions indicate her continued distrust in his loyalty to her. His cry out of ‘I am honest!’ is so anguished and defeated as is her angry explosion about ever being his only wife. But it does feel on both sides that this is probably where many of their arguments ended before and you sense they are not listening to each other anymore and what they actually mean.

But as the other night as soon as Hale comes in they instantly bond again and the whole argument seems forgotten ( or delayed for later). All Proctors answers from now on are marked by exactly that, a deep sense of honesty. And often during the discussion with Hale he gravitates towards where Elizabeth sits and talk while holding a hand on her chair, especially when he speaks of the baptism of his children.

Particularly poignant was the exchange during the commandments, John is obviously nervous but Elizabeth’s addition of ‘adultery’ is not as harsh as on other night, it comes in an accepting tone and so is his reaction, his tone is low and restrained and both their stances say, our problem is private and only for us two to share. It is endearing as I’ve never felt their convergence at that instance before. And with every word then onwards his protective instincts rise  and he never leaves Elizabeth’s side. Whereas his attitude has been somewhat subdued until now, his anger and his tone of voice rises with each exchange. Whatever weakness there may have been it is gone.

The way he rages against Hale, everyone, hoping against hope they will not take her. Their separation at the end of act 2 is almost as painful as the last, he holds on with both hands to her arms, higher up but gently as not to crush her and the desperation on his face is enormous, the look they exchange is so silent and powerful and the way he pleads crying almost that he will come to save her was incredible! It is almost a reversed situation from what we see at the very end when he is the strong one and Elizabeth lies crying in his arms. The way he begs and fights with them not to chain her is horrendous, his voice a mixture of tears and anger.

Any of the words and lines and expressions in the whole act 2 could be marvelled at in their perfection. I could rewatch that act the way I saw it a million times and still be touched by every breath. If I knew nothing more of John Proctor I would admire him and pity him and feel with him both in anger and in pain.

And his choice is easily made, once Mary reveals Abigail threatened to accuse him, he means to do anything and everything drag himself down with Abigail but Elizabeth must be saved. The conviction he expressed there is final, it is the point I think when he decides his life is worthless, he cannot be saved and is rotten ( as he says to Elizabeth later in act 4).

Act 3 was another high wire balance between striking the right level of respect in his tone to make himself heard and loosing the grip on his anger and fear in the light of the absurd and violent goings on. The mix of disgust and fear that races through his voice and stance when he talks about Abigail wanting to dance with him on Elizabeth’s grave is so telling of how appealed he is now at the consequences of his mistake. He realises and I think he finally understands what Elizabeth was trying to tell him earlier because for the first time he calls Abigail a whore with the same conviction Elizabeth has done before.

Also telling his little gestures when they bring in Elizabeth and although he can’t see her, they seem to gravitate instinctively towards each other, at first his head is bowed and then as she speaks openly and he thinks she will share the whole story he almost seems to want to give her courage, he straightens and lifts his head at her voice almost bringing himself physically closer to her.

And from then onwards he proceeded to create an act 4 of such intensity and beauty that I will be forever amazed I saw something like it on a live stage. From the instance he came dragged in and saw Elizabeth and just froze and how she looked at him and leaning into her, touching with gentleness and amazement with his tortured extended fingers her belly and the child within, to leaning towards her and talking to her in the softest of tones.

Then he rose up while still looking broken (how does one manage to do that???) with extended pleading hands towards heaven crying ‘God, what is John Proctor?’ Those few lines always torture me as he proceeds to move almost like a beast in a cage talking about himself as fraud, as doing evil. His voice melds disgust and determination in equal measures while his body contorts expressing the inner struggle that comes with his decision. It is awful and riveting to behold as it seems like it should be impossible to be this and say these things and yet it happens before your eyes!

And he continues by crawling towards the table, shying away in shame from Rebecca by bowing even further down and turning his neck and face, trying to cover it with his blood streaked hands. It hurts to even remember the images, it was like watching a beaten, tortured animal writhing in front of you.

The suddenly the transformation happens and he  becomes man again with ‘You have all witnessed it is enough.’ The whole weight of the world lies in that one little word, enough! It is hard to describe how he weighs the word down and makes it sound like so much of torture, lies and encompasses everything in it, it doesn’t mean stop, it means no more lies, no more abuse, no more authority. It is in a way a mirror of ‘God is dead’. What he means is ‘this ends now’. And he repeats it again and again and again with ever more conviction and with every time he raises up and the voice becomes firmer and John Proctor becomes of a strange and riveting beauty in his transformation.

I can’t describe it with any other word than beauty, like the most beautiful painting (which may well be of a tortured saint), or very much like a Rodin statue. It is what he has most reminded me of in this final scene. Voice rising and muscles along his neck and shoulders twisting, sinews straining at every word supporting the body from inside by sheer force of will. It is of a frightening beauty, a very human and extremely powerful beauty.  And it’s impossible to look away.

And then he turns towards Elizabeth and she falls weeping on her knees  at his feet. With a tear shredded voice he tells her not to let them have her tears and arm shaking lifts her from her knees to way way up high above his head and brings her gently down into the kiss, spins her in a powerful hug around, kisses her again and after trying to quickly support Rebecca in passing bring his hand back to Elizabeth’s arm and while they start dragging him away, looking deeply into her arms….. he smiles at her. The most serene, beautiful, blissful smile one can imagine which illuminates his cheeks and sets his eyes alight and the smiles stays there until he disappears into the darkness beyond.

And it’s the last image we see of John Proctor, his smile.

Richard Armitage was John Proctor and I have witnessed it 🙂

Crucible 10th August (Richard Armitage @Old Vic)

Note – i think we ended up creating a full new post in comments, so please feel free to read along too 😉

September!!!! 10th, 2014 Crucible Old Vic

(It’s too late to change the title now and i’ll just leave it like that with the wrong date, testimony of just how much my brain was scrambled last night 😉

Johan Persson photo of Richard Armitage in the Crucible/ Old Vic

Johan Persson photo of Richard Armitage in the Crucible/ Old Vic

This will probably be as incoherent as it gets and as jumbled and illogical and on some level probably very embarrassingly emotional (apologies for any mistakes and typos, English is not my first language and under the circumstances I don’t have time tonight for decent editing, please bear with me). But I’ve decided to do this tonight nevertheless since I’ve got not option tomorrow morning but to put this under lock and key for the day and put the work brain on and try and use it. It is unfair! Living in London gives me these incredible experiences, but at the same time makes me wish I was a tourist on holiday and I could talk the night away after a show or walk the next day and still think about it and feel about it. The hardest thing is having to drag oneself to work the next day when everything about you screams it wants to hold on to last night for a tiny bit longer. So this is me trying to hold on…

I couldn’t have possibly imagined the 4th Crucible would feel like this. Don’t get me wrong, I fully expected it to grip me and take me on the journey as the other 3 times have, but it was a familiar path by now that was tough to walk, but which was so transforming each time you reached the end that I had no quibbles subjecting myself to it again.

I still hope I’ll retrace the other 3 as they are still vivid in my mind, untarnished by tonight’s experience, all the angst,  the frustration, feeling like a blubbering mess at the end, I’ll never forget that. There is so much that fascinated me about the play from the start, all the layers, the complex characters, the thousand stories told in the 1 play: from racism and slaves, to hatred, envy, religion, revolution and love of all kinds. There really is so much to talk about! But I did expect tonight to make a similar emotional journey as each of the other nights, not the same, but familiar.

It’s just that… it wasn’t. Serves me right I think for getting too comfortable about it to end up the night out of breath, frightened to the core and feeling like I’ve been stamped on by 100 horses. I was literally too shocked to cry.

I am not entirely sure I would choose tonight as the definitive Crucible of the ones I’ve seen; there was a level of tenderness, almost melancholy that had developed in the previous ones that wasn’t as present today. I particularly missed what to me is ‘John Proctor, the poet’ 🙂 More about that hopefully later. Today all throughout there was more volatility to the action, it felt as if the few moments of peace were cut much shorter and were always under threat by the overriding feeling of anxiety, fear and anger. It felt as if it was the shortest yet – I suspect it was the same in duration – but the increased intensity of it all made it feel faster.

I wonder how much influence in tonight’s atmosphere did the video recording have and how much is due to the end of the run approaching oh so fast? I guess both things made everyone take stock consciously and as a result some choices were made for the way they played their characters which all led to tonight’s outcome. I mean this very positively. By no means am I implying the actors haven’t thought about their performances before or made conscious choices, but I did have a feeling that it had been a more organic, almost subconscious evolution,  with subtle rather than dramatic changes.

Tonight we didn’t get just subtle changes, we got new takes on some lines, whole changes in atmosphere in some scenes.

For example, Danforth was not just forceful but rather more Machiavellian than before, his speeches had slightly less obvious force but far more evil twisted menace, which was very enjoyable to watch. I caught myself actually enjoying his spin on things at times and the almost velvety malice he developed, whereas in previous performances fear and frustration with him was the overriding tone.

Poor Mary Warren seemed to have found new levels of terror and you just wanted to hug her and whisk her away. But she became frighteningly vicious in her accusations of Proctor in the trial scene. The way she pointed and shouted at him took Proctor literally aback, it was horrible to watch and I think I never felt her turning on him quite as acute as I did today.

As frightened as she is, as frightening is Abigail. She’s always sacred me with her intensity, but today the first scene in Parris’ house between her and John was telling and her words showed us the inevitable end. John fights her off but doesn’t realise that she will never stop. She can’t and I’ve heard it today as clear as I hadn’t quite grasped it before. She says he’s opened her eyes to life and he cannot ask her to close them again. We’ve just heard how her parents were killed, we see how restricted girls have to live, Proctor has unknowingly opened the door to a new world for her, or unlocked the wildness in her and what has been freed cannot be locked up again. Too bad he didn’t realise it, but for me tonight her words spelled doom in big bold, unmistakable letters. Before I’ve been so riveted by their violent dance I don’t think I’ve paid quite as much attention to all words as I did today. But today I knew she’d stop at nothing. She was also much more violent in her threats to the other girls. She’s strong enough to corner John into admitting he may still think fondly of her, even though he then rejects her. I felt that unlike other times she really had the upper hand in that particular scene.

Giles and Francis were the only ones who hadn’t been infected by the violence in the air, their natural, warm way was almost like a grounding point in normality, making the abnormality of everything else even more shocking.

Parris decayed from act3 accuser to act4 frightened lost man all the more convincingly, but what I found particularly hard to deal with tonight was the level of violence displayed against Tituba in act 1.   The light of God certainly didn’t shine in this man (at which point I have to say that it takes a wonderful actor to accept and be able to display the level of cowardice that characterises Parris. And today once more I realised that his weakness in the last act makes me sympathise with him and for that I have to thank Michael Thomas.)

Ah, and this is a point I’d like to make: I don’t hate any of the characters! None. This is partly due to the play being absolutely brilliant in giving the characters substance, but equally as much due to Yael Farber and each actor who makes the roles become living breathing, believable, flawed humans. For me it’s no mean feat that this never descends into caricature evilness or greatness. There is no absolute hero (no, there isn’t ;-)) but there is also no absolute evil. Yes there are motivations and flaws and a whole array of character traits, but we get to see everyone vulnerable at some point and what could easily be hate becomes pity and sympathy. Of course a major factor in balancing the overall view is Proctor’s ascent to heroism 🙂 His transformation and also characters like Giles or Rebeca Nurse, Elizabeth and Hale and their particular paths give us I think sufficient redemption and light to allow us to forgive or at least look with sympathy upon the ones who are unable to evolve or better themselves.

Hale is one of my favourite characters, the one I personally empathise most with, especially at the end. I’m in awe of Proctor’s will and determination, but the argument that resonates with me and is closest to my heart is the one Hale makes, about life being more important than anything (my own religious doubts coming into play which push me to be more sympathetic towards choosing life rather than redemption in death). And just like the level of cowardice in Parris must be very hard to play, so is Hale’s gradual realisation and damnation. He is a good man I think Goody Proctor would say and when a good man like him, a minister, realises he is partially responsible for the deaths of innocents and not only that, but in order to try and save a few, he has to make them go against their strongest religious beliefs, well then he is truly damned. Adrian Schiller’s descent from the calm, collected minister to the tortured soul at the end has fascinated me each night and it is subtly gradual. Tonight I thought at first it was somewhat delayed until it plummeted startlingly. It starts in the trial scene and his attempts to save Proctor, but the real knife-in-gut moment was in the last act when he explains that, were he unable to save Proctor, he would be a murderer. The despair in his voice, the amount of guilt those lines carried was enormous.  And in that one word he managed tonight to make you see all the bodies of those hanged one by one. Horrifying and heart-breaking.

I have to say that at the final applause, when he managed to collect himself from the floor where he had fallen as they were dragging Proctor out to be hanged, his face was so filled with grief and despair still – to the depths of his eyes – that I had to look away, it felt indecent to applaud, though I did, but it just felt as if that linger of grief was almost too private.

And I felt the same with Elizabeth and John (Anna Madeley and Richard Armitage), it was almost as if I’d have been watching them come back from within their characters.

And there it was again tonight with Elizabeth too, the feelings, the intensity  vibrating all around her. Before, I’ve always felt she managed to lay calm over rejection, that it was her belief, her religion that held her steadfast. Well today there was much more than that, there was clear anger, suspicion and mistrust. Let’s put it that way, even though she does all her domestic duties, prepares the stew, prepares his water, it’s clear she’s got a bee in her bonnet! And she started with hitting that bread dough extra hard against the table. Yes we can see the fatigue, the weariness, but it’s clear when she says it that she is just waiting to ask him where he’s been. I hadn’t noticed that before, but for example when he sits down to eat he extends his hand next to the plate trying to grab for hers, but she ignores him deliberately and pulls her hand away. Her rejection of his kiss went today as far as turning her head away, not just standing still and not reacting.

Ok, I’ll admit I liked this scene slightly softer, more melancholic as I’d experienced it gradually before, tonight the overriding feeling between them was frustration and anger. It fitted the overall feel of increasing threat, uneasiness which was relentless. But I did miss a bit of the softer ebb and flow of other nights. In secret, I do wish some of that would come back for the last night 😉

But you’d be wrong if you think I blame her or would like her to soften up. I have to go back to previous evenings to explain myself. The first time I met John Proctor I didn’t like him at first, that scene with Abigail doesn’t speak to his advantage, let’s face it, he’s been cheating on his wife. And in the next scene he’s shouting at Elizabeth for judging him while he’s been again not entirely truthful, though no longer cheating. It took me all to the end of act 2 to see him heartbroken when they take her, to start forgiving him myself. And my opinion of him improved gradually from then on. Of course once you have experienced the end you see Proctor in a very different light. And that transformation stays with you next time you see the play and you’ll never see Proctor the same again.

Except tonight I did! I honestly didn’t think Richard Armitage could erase Proctor from my mind and recreate him from scratch as if I hadn’t seen him before. But because he was weaker with Abigail and more forceful with Elizabeth I felt resentment, dislike! And I couldn’t stop myself from feeling these things or rationalise them away. I wanted to slap him when he sat in shame in his chair while Abigail was claiming him and I wanted to slap him again when he was shouting at Elizabeth she wasn’t God to judge him! But he managed to be so angry at Elizabeth that you realised he was still being angry at himself. The confrontation between the 2 was so intense, so angry, so frustrating that you got a very sad sense of a completely broken relationship. Today I had my doubts if mending it would even be possible. And then with one tiny gesture Armitage convinced me that possibility was still out there: in the midst of their fight as Hale turns up they turn next to each other from facing each other and he almost instinctively half grabs her hand. And in that once instance even with resentment still bubbling, they become a united front again. Not only that, but in that one tiny gesture John not only takes the protective role again, but also communicates that ultimately his anger is with himself, his care for her is stronger, deeper than the recent fight. So he put me on the path to forgiveness all over again! Even when she completes the last commandment with a harsh “adultery“, his tone is auto -ironical but not harsh towards her. He accepts her reprimand with some frustration but the tone still says: we are a unit. Amazing!

I was searching for a word to define how he made John Proctor different today, where the threat came from and I found it: volatility! There has always been a sense of Proctor being a man of deep passions and convictions, but while other evenings he’s controlling these, tonight he was volatile and the swings where more intense, dramatic and unpredictable. From his broken voice one minute after they have taken Elizabeth to turning towards Mary with a look in his eyes that was almost madness; no wonder she scurries away in fright, he looked and acted completely unhinged. And here is where you get a sense of Proctor as a good man. He’s not good because he’s religious or always doing the right thing, he’s good because his sense of right and wrong always overrides any impulses (well, almost always ;-)) He has the choice, and he chooses the right thing.

The irony of the conflict with Mary and the trial scene is not lost on the audience; however I think Miller makes it clear that although Proctor has a temper and that temper is under strain as they have just taken his wife away, force will not be his ultimate solution, not against poor Mary. Though we see him raging in that instance, by the next act it’s clear he’s persuaded her to do the right thing, and she has come to that decision herself not due to threats but convictions. Richard Armitage has perfected that dance on the edge masterfully, so much so that you trust him enough to actually go along and let him frighten you, let yourself wonder how far he will go for Elizabeth. Again and again you see him having a go at Mary but stopping when he sees her really vulnerable. There is righteousness and anger in him, but there is no mean streak.

And so the evening was dominated by fear, fear of Danforth and the authority, the hanging and the jail and fear of one man’s passion. And guess what keeps you more on edge?? Of course it is Proctor! While the authority is absurd, illogical and abusive, we know exactly what to expect from it. But we never know what Proctor will do next. You can watch his eyes and his facial expressions and still not know what will come next. And I think it takes him and drags him along as much as it does us. When he violently circles the round denouncing the court, appalled at the insanity, it is a tipping point. Although we know what is what, it feels as if the insane one is him, his world has tipped upside down and he doesn’t see a way to put it right. Richard circles the round in massive steps getting up close to each judge in the frightening “ we will buuuurrrn..” lines and suddenly had to pull himself back forcefully almost as the next step took him right up the first bench of innocent audience members. It felt like they only very narrowly escaped the wave of his wrath.

And you think it can’t possibly get even more intense than this, but then it does.

Elizabeth and John laughing and crying together, forehead to forehead has to be one of my favourite images from all shows. He’s sitting broken and tortured in the chair she pulled for him, she is kneeling at his feet and we get a glimpse of what their relationship was like in the good days. Anna and Richard manage to make that scene so natural it’s almost domestic. And what is so spellbinding is how immediate their contact is and how strong the bond, in spite misery, jail etc. ( this is the rattiest shirt yet I’ve seen for the last act, Proctor looked like he’s been tortured more than last time and everything on him looked just horrible, double the wounds and tears than the other times).

What also becomes immediately obvious is that what has broken Proctor is his guilt, his own sense of shame. And it is heartbreaking how Elizabeth’s proof of love comes in a desperate attempt to lift that blame away.

The moment that made me wince physically and knotted my stomach is in his struggle to sign the confession, when he faces Rebecca Nurse the way his back literally broke at her gentle “oh, John!”. It’s hard to describe how a man so tall, so physically able, can collapse in on himself and give you the physical impression that he is trying to dig himself into the ground.

And then, just went you feel the need to reach out and comfort, something inside him grows. It’s like a sort of emotional supernova, he collapses inwardly only to explode with greater force and engulf everything around him. As he started to straighten and his voice started to clear and gain force you could almost feel the threat coming in frightening slow motion. A simple movement like straightening ones spine had the entire hall spellbound in absolute silence. And there he was, John Proctor, twice as tall, stronger than ever, suddenly unleashed, hand firmly lifted with the confession.  Richard Armitage said in the conversation that the play made him want to burn, well, I could almost swear I’ve seen the flesh burn off his body tonight in that scene. I think every single person in the Vic not only heard his name but physically felt it.

Then, in absolute silence he slowly lifts the other hand and rips the paper in two. You could literally feel the physical force emanating from him. It’s a very beautiful moment!

And then he turns and in utter shock sees Elizabeth and realises what this means for her and for them. And for me this is the actual death scene. It’s goodbye but he makes it at the same time into a celebration of life. I honestly felt that he was almost transferring all his life force to Elizabeth in that one kiss. He lifted her very very high up, caressed her hair after loosening it and literally gave her the kiss of life in a way. Whatever they dragged away after that was just the empty shell of John Proctor. I felt as if his spirit had stayed with Elizabeth.

People jumped up in standing ovations and I could hardly stand as I felt my knees knocking together and my hands shaking. I have no exact idea of how I got to my bus, except I missed my various bus stops and had to get off and start again and it took me a really long while to start breathing close to normal. I still feel a bit frightened of what I watched. I know this was the 4th show in just 2 days and I have no explanation of how such performances are even possible. Wherever that energy came from that made everyone turn themselves inside out and literally explode within the round I am grateful for it and frightened of it a bit too. I hope that we managed to give back to all these wonderful actors some of the enormous energy we received from them (otherwise as I mentioned I’d feel like an emotional vampire!).  I am very very grateful for their dedication and talent, today was extraordinary!

And Richard Armitage, you should come with a warning label on stage: emotionally contagious! May be dangerous to your health! 🙂

One more to go…. And now I really don’t know what to expect!

To be continued…

PS for those curious about these details, I stumbled through nearest exit right next to stage door and I must have been of the first to exit and there was already a cue to the corner. Must be people who didn’t see the show, if they left early… well they missed all that. I couldn’t have possibly had a normal human conversation with anyone or anything at that point. Nor did I frankly think anyone on stage could give me anything more than they already had. I wouldn’t have accepted even a miniounce of energy from any of them, just wouldn’t have felt right. Saying thanks may have felt right, but are there any thanks that can do justice to this performance? Again I don’t believe so, anything to be said had been said inside the doors this night. I don’t mean to say it’s not nice and so on, just that I couldn’t have possibly stayed there or said anything. I stayed once and it was a very pleasant experience which hopefully I’ll get to tell you about over the next few days.

Summer in the Crucible @Old Vic – part 1

A couple of years and plays later…

20140721_175455

A friend of mine tells me she’s bought tickets for the Crucible @Old Vic and I decide to trod along for one date, since I’ve never been at the Old Vic and haven’t seen the play before. I decide for a cheap ticket in the circle, hopefully with no massively obstructed view, stick the date in my calendar and forget about it.

A few weeks later, apparently before press night my friend tell me there are tickets for £10 available still, but I refuse on grounds of being too tired to make the effort and that I had a ticket anyways in a few weeks’ time.

Oh, the stuff we end up regretting!!!  If I only knew then what I know now and could turn back time.

And then the day arrives. Plenty of five star reviews in the press, so looks like it will be good and I’m very much looking forward to the experience. The theatre is one of the oldest in London and a very small venue, which from experience I prefer. I’ve got some concerns over legroom and comfort as other old theatres in London have not been very kind to my knees and back in the past.

But it’s Friday, I’m finally off work, the weather is warm, I’m meeting friends and very much looking forward to spending  an interesting evening together. I hit Waterloo and there it is! The Old Vic, looking great from the outside against the blue but cloudy sky and I stand there from across the street looking at the building and the posters. And suddenly I feel almost like a tourist on vacation and lucky to be here. On impulse I take a picture of the Old Vic with my phone, after all it’s my first visit 🙂 Since I’m the first one here I pick up my ticket in what feels like a tiny foyer and after a friendly chat with one of the ushers head to the downstairs bar. Friendliness seems to rain supreme here and the bartender even quickly whips up one of my favourite cocktails. Time to relax while I study the massive poster of the inside of the theatre they have there, looks beautiful and very small, can’t wait to be inside. I’ve seen comments about the play being very long, but that is not something that worries me ( Wagner – Ring, Meistersinger, Parsifal etc ;-))) remember opera? 3h 30 min is an easy ride in terms of duration 😉 quite the contrary, it means things will not get rushed. Just hope my neighbours won’t be fidgety ones as I know I’ll need to concentrate on the text since all I managed in a rush a day before were the first 2,3 pages of the play.

And then we are on our way up and I get suddenly hit by wafts of fragrant smoke which remind me of church in an eerie way. But not as sickly as incense, actually on second thought, it’s more like a fire on wet leaves in the woods in autumn.   It’s a beautiful effect, it draws you in and you are equally anxious and excited to step into the mists. We walk up and there is suddenly Laurence Olivier in a photo on the wall… And suddenly I remember as clear as if it was yesterday, watching the old black and white Hamlet movie!

In my seat I look around at the rags covering all railings and you already feel transported to another place and time. I also become aware of the low rumbling noise, which creates a feeling of almost breath-taking anticipation. It’s uncomfortable and ominous and leaves you unsettled. The stage is literally a round space in the middle of the audience and I have the perfect view from above, set seems to be reduced to a couple of chairs which is fine by me. The music ramps up and we are off…

Interval  – I love it! Everything about it, the light and lack thereof, the dark costumes, every single actor on stage and their amazing diction, the clarity of their voices that reaches me as if they were right next to me. Bar very very few words I got everything from start to finish. And that is just the images and sounds. Who are all these people? What do they hide, what will they do next, there is so much subtext in every line, in every pause, my head is spinning. I can’t even breath deeply and start asking myself all these questions and we are already back for part 2…

Applause!!!!! Why??? What is wrong with all these people????? Why do they need to jump up instantly, where are they rushing to? How can they run back to the streets of London just like that? How can there be anything but silence after this? It’s all death, desperation, disillusionment there and inside. I somehow move out because I’m end of the row so I have to, but I can’t stop crying. I find myself downstairs, waiting for the others and struggle to get a hold on it but I can’t really. I can see in front of my eyes life destroyed…. the deserted town and farms, the animals on the street, the crying babies, Goody Proctor in her cell, holding on to the growing child in her belly, Reverend Hale praying for life, searching for some answer that isn’t there to be found, frail Rebecca nurse stumbling but serene and John Proctor, tall and tortured, grimy,bloody, being dragged away and those eyes… burning!

<

p style=”text-align:center;”>20140721_175551

To be continued…

 ………………….

July 21st, August 15th, 23rd

The Crucible / Arthur Miller

Cast and production credits:      

Reverend Parris                             Michael Thomas

His daughter, Betty                         Maram Corlett

His slave, Tituba                                Sarah Niles

His niece Abigail Williams              Samantha Colley

Their neighbours are:    

Thomas Putnam                               Harry Attwell

Ann Putnam                                       Rebecca Saire

Rebecca Nurse                                  Ann Firbank

Francis Nurse                                     Neil Salvage

Giles Corey                                         William Gaunt

Reverend John Hale                       Adrian Schiller

John Proctor                                      Richard Armitage

His wife, Elizabeth Proctor           Anna Madeley

Their servant, Mary Warren        Natalie Gavin

Village girls:       

Susanna Walcott                              Daisy Waterstone

Mercy Lewis                                       Zara White

Villagers co-opted by the court:               

Ezekiel Cheever                                     Alan Vicary

Marshal Herrick                                    Tom Peters

A villager, Sarah Good                    Paddy Navin

The voice of Martha Corey          Catherine Hammond

The judiciary:    

Judge Hathorne                                                Christopher Godwin

Deputy Governor Danforth         Jack Ellis

Ensemble                                            Hannah Hutch

Lauren Lyle

 

The designer is Soutra Gilmour

Lighting design is by Tim Lutkin and music and sound design by Richard Hammarton

Movement is designed by Imogen Knight

The Crucible is directed by Yael Farber