Posts Tagged ‘The Old Vic’

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!




Read Full Post »

Apologies for the delay in writing this but I’m still struggling to put into words the wonderful weekend I recently spent in London. Two plays, four friends (plus me) and the big smoke … weekends don’t get much better. But throw Richard Armitage into the mix and you reach the heights of pretty damn perfect!


But I digress a little … after all, I started the weekend with a couple of doubts.


First things first; my friends and I got to meet Rachel. We’ve been chatting to her online for simply ages and I was dying to meet the person who I say fangirls “like a boss”: straight talking and with an honest appreciation of all things Armitage and Cumberbatch there was little to go wrong. No doubts here and definitely no disappointments.


We all met up on the South Bank at the BFI, watching the strange and eclectic mix of London life go by. Pantaloons anyone? All present and correct we made our way to The Globe to watch Julius Caesar. Doubt número uno!


I have been ill for some time now. I have endured an interminable wait to find out the results of a CT scan I had a few weeks ago; the good old NHS had a backlog and so I waited … and waited … and waited. I have unexplained pain in my back and elsewhere, which the doctor thought may be kidney stones. (It turns out it’s not, so back to square one for me). I’d also been laid low with a nasty virus for about four weeks – my third in six months thanks to me working in a school – which only started clearing up with the help of some antibiotics after this much anticipated culture weekend. Anyway, the upshot of this was that I knew there was no way I could stand for three hours in the yard at The Globe, hence my doubt. I planned to see if they had any returns of seated tickets but fully expected to be spending my afternoon mooching around St Paul’s Cathedral just across the river instead.


I went to the ticket desk and asked if they had any seated tickets. They didn’t. My lovely friend Julia pleaded my case and miraculously a ticket became available – pretty much the best seat in the house. Major doubt quickly dispelled.


I hired a cushion to soften the wooden bench I’d be perched on for the duration and grabbed a free cardboard hat to shield my face from the scorching sun and settled down. The players were in the courtyard outside the theatre before the play making lots of noise and revving up the audience.


Me in my free and very silly but much needed hat at The Globe. Source: Julia.


The play started well with a raucous opening with the players encouraging the audience to join in and chant “Caesar, Caesar, Caesar” over and over with much clapping of hands and stomping of feet. It was like being at a football match when a popular player is about to walk onto the pitch. At The Globe each and every member of the audience is a member of the cast.


Overall I enjoyed the play but I suspect that was mainly because of where I was. There were some great performances but sadly I felt Caesar wasn’t one of them. Julius Caesar isn’t the most compelling of Shakespeare’s works. After Caesar is killed the play just seems to be a succession of people convincing someone else to kill them rather than take their own lives.


If it seems like I may have missed something then blame the heat. My seat may have been very good but it was in full sunlight for the entire play. The hat helped shield my face but it felt like I was sitting in a furnace with little or no breeze to provide any relief. I resisted the urge to remove my thin cardigan in an effort not to get severely sunburnt. Several members of the audience had to be taken out in wheelchairs after succumbing to the heat.


Finally released from the furnace the real excitement of the day started. The Crucible! Out of the furnace and into the fire, so to speak.


O conspiracy!
Sham’st thou to show thy dangerous brow by night,
When evils are most free?”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 1

But what of my doubts? I’m not too proud to admit that although I had a long-held interest in Richard Armitage and thought him to be a very good actor, an interesting and intelligent person and thought him not too shabby in the looks department, I was not of the opinion that he was a great actor. I was desperate to see him on stage because he fascinates me but I was prepared to be disappointed, or, at least, not blown away. I doubted him and I was so very wrong.


Richard Armitage, The Crucible at The Old Vic. Source: The Old Vic.


Our seats were in the second row back from the front and the first I knew of this was when I sat down. I don’t think I realised just how close the actors would be to us until the play started, from which moment on I was completely captivated.


I’m not going to go into any detail about the play because there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before. There are not enough words in the world to describe how wonderful this particular production is, how moving, evocative and thought provoking it is, or how compelling and completely absorbing I found it.


From the moment he first appeared on the stage my eyes were drawn to John Proctor. It was not Richard Armitage that appeared on that stage, it was all Proctor. From his sore-looking feet to his bloodied fingers, from the roar of his voice to the tears in his eyes, every last inch of him was the embodiment of John Proctor. When it was all over, I stood, heartbroken and in awe, and applauded. As he took his final bow and looked upwards to take the applause from those sitting above us, the lights that shone down upon him showed us that Proctor’s tears still glistened in his eyes and my heart broke a little more.


Of course, one actor does not a play make, or at least not this play and it would be remiss of me not to mention that the whole cast was magnificent. There wasn’t a single performance that was unconvincing or lacking. The whole play was brilliant; beautifully staged and stunningly performed.


Despite being heartbroken and devastated I didn’t cry. I might have done were it not for the fact that I spent the entire play trying desperately not to cough thanks to my nasty virus. As I’m sure many of you will know a cough is always worse at night and mine was no exception. I had plenty of water but the constant dry ice did me no favours. This is not a criticism it’s just a shame that I spent so much time trying to remain silent instead of relaxing. The woman in front of me didn’t help. She turned round every time I had to give in and cough – and it wasn’t like I was the only person coughing! My friends were not amused with her.


A friend should bear his friend’s infirmities,
But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3

Anyway, coughing aside, and apologies to anyone I annoyed (except “Brutus” in front who made me mildly paranoid – and yes I know the quote implies Brutus is a friend), when the play was over we gathered our wits and made our way to the stage door. I had been in two minds about whether or not to do it – another doubt – and having seen the tears still in Richard Armitage’s eyes when he took his bow, my doubts escalated. But this was probably going to be the only chance I’d ever have to meet him in the flesh. In the end only two of us joined the queue which eventually stretched all the way back to the front of the theatre. In hindsight we could have been better prepared but he came, he signed, he spoke, I took a photo and he moved on.


The photo was not my finest moment. We thought we’d be able to get a photo with both of us in but hadn’t thought through how we would take it and as Richard kindly pointed out, the security guys aren’t allowed to help. I took a photo of him with my friend, Nic, and then he was gone. She was concerned that I didn’t have a photo of me with him but all things considered: my cough, being a horrible sweaty mess thanks to London still being sauna-like even late at night, and the distinct possibility that I didn’t smell too sweet, I was happy to leave having spoken to him (about taking photos) and wielding a signed programme. I was not disappointed. The queue was enormous, he was the consummate gentleman, and quite frankly, having witnessed what he goes through on stage I was astounded he came out at all.


What of the photo? Well, he blinked and Nic looks decidedly shocked but we met him so I don’t think either of us really cares! I’m not posting it here because it’s not especially flattering of either subject. It’s a shame because the overall quality of the photo is actually quite good!


I left The Old Vic with the biggest grin on my face despite the hacking cough and unsightly sweatiness. I can’t help but say that in the flesh Richard Armitage is far more beautiful than he is in any photo or film. I was quite stunned. On stage he is a towering presence whereas at the stage door he was less tall and a lot slimmer than I imagined – although seeing him shirtless on stage (right in front of me) it seemed obvious to me that his apparent broad chest and shoulders are more about how he carries himself rather than his physicality.


Anyway, I did wonder why he comes out to greet people night after night when he must be exhausted and completely spent, especially after a day of two performances. In the interview he did with Richard Armitage US at the Into The Storm premiere, when asked why he goes out of his way to “connect with his fans on a personal level”, he said that he is “blown away” by the support he receives and for that reason alone I’m so glad I queued outside the stage door.


As to my doubts. I said before I was wrong and in a way I’m glad. Seeing just how great an actor he is blew my mind and took my breath away. To discover it this way was a real privilege.


So there you have it. It’s not a review but it’s what I want to say. Thank you to the lovely ladies who made the whole weekend simply wonderful – Julia, Nicola, Rachel & Carole. They deserve special thanks for putting up with my coughing and not making me feel like a leper although now I come to think of it no-one seemed keen to share a room with me!


Finally, I’ll let you into a little secret. I’m going to see The Crucible again in less than two weeks time! This time with no annoying cough … might need tissues!



Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: