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Richard Armitage as John Proctor in The Crucible at The Old Vic. Source: Johan Persson via RichardArmitageNet.

 

Wednesday saw me back at The Old Vic to see The Crucible for the second time, in front row seats no less! I can’t tell you how lucky I felt.

 

When we took our seats I was struck at how different it seemed from the second row where we sat last time. I could hardly contain my excitement.

 

There is little for me to add to what I wrote last time except to say that the front row affords you a perspective that you can’t ever hope to obtain from any other seat. It gives you a level of immersion in the play that allows you to truly forget it’s not real. There is a sense of intrusion when witnessing the Proctors at home, his love for her coupled with the frustration of her coldness towards him palpable in the smoky air. In the courtroom and in the gaol you feel complicit in the injustice being delivered, horrified at the ridiculousness of it all but at the same time powerless to stop it.

 

When it was all over and my heart was broken once again I cried. I cried for Proctor and I cried for his wife. I cried for the injustice of an innocent man being hanged for refusing to confess to a lie. I cried for the tears in Richard Armitage’s eyes and the way his bottom lip wobbled as he took his applause, and I cried for me … because I knew I would never get to see it again.

 

As the applause started I looked around me and was briefly tempted to wait for others to stand but decided that self-consciousness be damned, I would not be a sheep. I stood proudly from my front row seat and applauded a performance that will stay with me for years to come. I doubt I’ll witness anything that moves me in quite the same way ever again.

 

As the audience left the theatre I actually found it hard to stop crying. The temptation to just let it all out and sob loudly almost overcame me but I held it back. If I think about it now the tears still fill my eyes.

 

On the way home I got to thinking about certain things. If I was so affected, soppy mare that I am, how on earth does the cast cope with that kind of emotion night after night. I can’t see how one could ever become completely immune to it. Richard Armitage said recently that Proctor never really leaves him and that he was “living like a monk”. The emotion is quite clearly something that he is unable to switch off the minute the play ends so I wonder how long it takes him to collect himself. Obviously, he’s not still crying by the time he gets to the stage door but, still, it must be hard.

 

We were at a matinée performance so no stage door for us but the performance actually over ran by ten minutes due to a late start, possibly caused by a number of ticket mix-ups that seemed to take a while to resolve. That gave the cast just 80 minutes to collect their thoughts and drag themselves back to the mindsets they would need to start the play again. I think of all of them Richard Armitage has the hardest job.

 

Another thought I had was that at the beginning of the play John Proctor is a tall proud man who is a towering presence on the stage but as things progress he becomes visibly smaller. He shrinks before your eyes and almost appears to lose weight. With the audience so close that speaks volumes of Armitage’s ability to transform himself.

 

Other people have criticised the audience for laughing at certain lines but as far as I can see those lines are meant to be humourous. Furthermore, the humour is important as it helps to show the complete ridiculousness of the whole thing. Other criticisms have been made about the shouting. Some raise their voices to show their authority, but wouldn’t you raise your voice in frustration if it were you in Proctor’s place? He shouts because everyone else is seemingly deaf to the truth. As to any criticisms of the length, I selfishly didn’t want it to end!

 

On a less serious note, when sitting at the front it is advisable to watch your feet. Every time someone walked near me or was thrown towards me I felt compelled to tuck my feet as far under my seat as was humanly possible. While I may have been rather taken with the idea of Armitage landing in my lap I would have been mortified if one of my wayward feet had interfered with the play in any way.

 

Finally, the lip wobble. Sitting so close to the stage you see more than I ever thought was possible and as he took his applause, Richard Armitage’s bottom lip was visibly shaking. People whooped and cheered and it looked to me as if he wanted to smile in thanks but, and I’m second guessing him here, the emotion of what he’d just put himself through was still visible on his face and apart from a slight upward twitch at the corner of his mouth he was unable to do it.

 

I have loved having the privilege of seeing The Crucible and have especially loved having the opportunity to see it twice. The front row seat could never be bettered. It is an astonishing piece of theatre and I’m only sorry I won’t ever see it again.

 

Thanks to Julia for organising this second trip!

 

 

 

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