So I finally got around to watching the DVD of Staged that arrived in the mail at some point a couple of months ago. Believe it or not, I do have a stack of unwatched early Richard Armitage material. You’d think that with all the time I devote to my Richarding, and having now been Richarding for about one year, I’d have long since watched this stuff, but always for one reason or another, I find myself rewatching favorites, reading blogs, playing games on the forum, and occasionally updating my own blog with this or that. But earlier this week I found myself with about 15 minutes, charts all caught up, nothing much else to do, and Staged sitting next to me. Knowing it was a very short production, I decided to pop it in and have a look at a very baby-faced Richard Armitage.
Overall, I don’t think my ~$25 (if I recall what I paid correctly) was necessarily worth it. The script certainly didn’t merit $25, and the performance wasn’t exactly of the caliber I’m accustomed to from Richard Armitage. If he’s embarrassed that this is “out there” (which I seem to have picked up on somewhere, but can’t recall who implied it), then I think that’s a little harsh on himself… but nonetheless, I would have to agree that it’s a bit of a sophomoric effort. Especially if that’s supposed to be an American accent. Um, if so, it was terrifically bad. I have to say, I thought his American accent in Into The Storm had a few sketchy moments, but overall was decent. If I hadn’t known he was British, I might not even have noticed anything was off. So props to RA for making a huge improvement there in the decade and a half since Staged was created. But even if that was not an early
failed attempt at an American accent, there were other aspects that didn’t exactly wow me.
That being said, I did enjoy Staged simply because it offered an opportunity to see Richard Armitage when he was such a fledgling. I don’t think I’ve seen him in another black and white film, so that was interesting. I was definitely intrigued when RA’s character, Darryl Newman, spoke the lines that turned out to be, if not prophetic, then certainly somewhat of a mirror to his real life, when his counterpart, Lily, asks Darryl what caused him to want to return to the stage after a successful run as a film actor:
Darryl: You know why. It’s been 12 years since I’ve done theatre. Stage is what made me. I miss the days when I’d pour myself into a role. One you could really sink your teeth into. You can go lost in a character for days… and it’s emotionally draining but for some insane reason I loved it. Get a kick out of really shaking people up, making them actually believe I was somebody else.
Lily: You like to keep your true nature hidden, don’t you?
Darryl: People see what they want to see. Trouble is once you become a commodity, you have to play into people’s fantasies of who they think you are. Unfortunately after a while they stop taking you seriously as an actor.
I can’t help but notice that Armitage really has wanted to “return to his roots” and recently, after 12 years onscreen, did exactly that with his phenomenal debut as the leading character with The Crucible… while unlike Darryl, I don’t think that the stage was originally “the making” of Armitage- (I’d argue that North and South was “the making” of Armitage)- it is true that he did start out there, and upon his return to the stage, he most certainly did “pour himself into the role” of John Proctor, and was rewarded with critical acclaim and even an Olivier nomination for his efforts. One can’t look at the many stage door photos toward the end of that run and not feel that the process was draining for him, as he looked increasingly haggard and exhausted, and I think most would agree, too, that he really shook people up in the process. So in that sense, Darryl’s words did in the end rather eerily forecast Armitage’s career in real life.
I have to wonder how much the second line from the script above also might echo reality for Richard Armitage. He’s inarguably now entering a stage in his career when he’s something of a commodity, and I think some of the debates that rage in the fandom more often than not stem from the very problem Darryl muses about… how much does he feel he has to play into people’s fantasies of who they think he is? I know it comes with the territory, but I’d imagine it’s not always easy, living up to expectations. And I have to wonder if he ever feels like he’s not taken seriously, (*coughs* thinking of my own Nipplegate Spoof) despite his recent success leading The Crucible. Well, RA, you’ll just have to knuckle down and do another play. Wow everyone again. I’ll try not to look at your nipple next time.
Speaking of nipples, Staged did offer another opportunity to ogle a much younger Richard Armitage in bare chest mode. I’m happy to report that he’s filled out nicely and put on some impressive muscle since then, but he was nevertheless attractive even when he was more of a bean pole. Some other important considerations that viewing Staged has created for me: did Richard Armitage have some moles removed since then, or do his new muscles just distract me? I had to have a look, and yes, I do believe he’s had some of his moles removed since then, though he hasn’t had them all removed. I think the rather prominent mole on his right deltoid area has been removed, but left a little scar. And those on the right trapezius area have also disappeared even as the muscle has notably developed.
Right. So, moving along… I did notice one other interesting thing about Richard’s performance as Darryl Newman. I couldn’t help but notice that his “approach” as he went in for a kiss with his ex-wife, who we are supposed to understand he still carries a torch for, was really rather similar to his “approach” as he gazed at Margaret as John Thornton in North and South. Check out the tender gaze, the blinking eyes… the little eyebrow lift. I have to say the addition of that very eloquent and gentle hand on Margaret’s face was an inspired improvement, but Darryl’s approach was really quite well done.
That’s about all I have to say regarding Staged. It was enlightening. He’s put on muscle. He’s lost some moles. He’s matured both in appearance and in his performance. All in all- I’m glad I watched it, but probably won’t spend much time on it in the future.