This was just the ticket to give me a chuckle and a much-needed boost after all the emotional upheaval this week. From The Toast, and brought to my attention by Janeite.
Hope you enjoy!
This was just the ticket to give me a chuckle and a much-needed boost after all the emotional upheaval this week. From The Toast, and brought to my attention by Janeite.
Hope you enjoy!
In the process of going through my PayPal records looking for business expenditures, I noticed that my first payment to Netflix was the first week of April, 2014. It just so happens that the first show I ever streamed on Netflix was BBC’s wonderful 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and although I didn’t know it at the time, my life was about to change. So yeah… I guess this is something of a One Year Fanniversary for me!
From the moment I saw John Thornton overlooking the mill floor, my heart started thudding. A few seconds later, the gorgeous jerk shouted “Stephens! Put that pipe out!” then chased the unfortunate smoker down, and delivered a beating. I was toast.
So, in honor of this occasion, I’ve been busily giffing away on North and South… many of these have probably been giffed a thousand times, but I wanted my own little John Thornton library. Prepare for Thornton Thursday overload, ladies. And pray for a fast connection, because I might have gone a bit wild. LOL
Oh, and if you, for some completely unfathomable reason have NOT watched North and South, there be spoilers below. =)
Something about Richard Armitage’s fury, his energy and on-screen magnetism just gripped me in those moments, and I knew that this was going to be something more than an enjoyable period drama. From then on, he absolutely dominated every scene he was in, and I really haven’t been the same since.
Something in the way John Thornton held himself. Something in the way he turned around to face Margaret. In fact, whichever direction he turned, impressed me.
He embodied the sinister Master so well. No sentimentality for the plight of the workers, just pragmatic business sense. Yet… he didn’t join the others in mocking the workers. And he didn’t try to stop the union from meeting.
I found myself transfixed at every minute twitch of his lips, every brief eyelid flicker when Mr. Thornton would gaze at Miss Hale.
Soon I began to develop a fascination for Thornton’s hand language. Not only are his hands beautiful to look at, but they’re eloquent. This has not abated. One of the reasons I’m not as into Thorin as many of the other chaRActers may have been that his hands were obscured…
Then there was the intensity of his smoldering. Not sure where I’ve ever seen the like. Armitage delivered barely suppressed, strong emotion in spades after Margaret rejected John’s proposal, and after John shielded Margaret from the inquest.
I guess since we’re listing all the things that made me instantly obsessed with Thornton, I’d have to include his stride. It wouldn’t have done for Thornton to mince along, or swagger western-style. No, he would move with purpose and determination everywhere he went, and I never tire of watching him in motion.
The final episode was full of angst on Thornton’s part. When he learned of Mr. Hale’s death, and knew it meant Margaret would also depart Milton, his grief was palpable.
I am certain that no John Thornton tribute would be complete without a nod to the famous “Look back. Look back at me.” Everyone I’ve steered toward watching North and South has referenced this scene and those lines.
It broke my heart, too.
As if the death of Mr. Hale and the subsequent separation from Margaret were not enough, Thornton was now devastated by financial crisis and foreclosure. Having lost almost everything that was important to him, aside from the abiding love of his mother, we were left with not a shattered man, but certainly a despondent and contemplative Thornton.
Never having read Gaskell’s novel, I remember thinking at this point, with so little time left in the program, that this particular period drama must have no happy ending. I was prepared for heartbreak. Then, the train station…
The legendary kiss to end all kisses. Such lovely music. Such restrained reverence in his eyes and in his touch.
And there you have it. Gorgeous, passionate, sinister, furious, smoldering, heartsick, tender, loving John Thornton. Is it any wonder that North and South is the proverbial “gateway drug” for so many in the fandom?
I’ve… ah… been making a few GIFs…
Um, once I started, I couldn’t seem to stop!
I said I couldn’t stop!
They’re almost becoming….
Yes. Something like that….
Yeah, so I downloaded this cool tool. It’s called the “Giffing Tool” and if you don’t want the free one (with watermarks), you pay. But you just pay what you want to pay. I didn’t see if they would accept $0, but paid a nominal fee via PayPal, and now I’m getting Giffy. Once it downloads and you save it to your folder, you can use it to basically crop out any area on your monitor. I’ve tried YouTube (Crucible Trailer), Netflix (North and South, Robinhood and Vicar of Dibley), and even a DVD (Strike Back). It works on all of them! Allows you to add text, turn it greyscale, or lighten it.
Pretty easy, once I got the hang of it….
Well, yeah. The first one took about an hour. But each successive GIF got faster after that!
I feel like I’ve entered a new phase of my PreoccupationWithArmitage….
I’ve entered the GIF zone. =)
Seated at my desk with a tall stack of charts…
I can’t face catching up, I don’t have the heart.
I know the day this stack began:
The blame belongs to a particular man!
It was October 9 when my chart count did start.
That was way back, when Thorin walked through the door…
He arrived at Bag End ready to settle an old score.
I was at the local theatre
With my eyes on the leader
And a whole new outlook on the dwarves of Tolkien lore!
Such expressions those eyes at different moments convey…
Be it outrage, arrogance, or wistful dismay.
As my viewing progressed
I couldn’t help but be impressed
At the volumes Those Eyes Alone can say!
My new friend Irache, from The Crucible Stage Door
Managed to get a shot that I love all the more.
It’s nothing but eyes
But it’s a hell of a prize
When we first saw it, we practically yelled “Score!”
As if all of this wasn’t sufficient to distract…
A heartbreak is coming, that’s just a fact.
We’ll all follow Thorin one last time
Profoundly painful, and yet sublime
Grappling with these images that both sadden, and attract.
So back to the charts… I’m afraid they must wait…
Until my equilibrium returns to steady state.
Armitage Eyes have struck again
I’m beginning to wonder if or when
Their hold on me will begin to abate.
I had quite the creepy dream, more of a nightmare, really… and thought it was actually rather fitting to share on Halloween.
* * *
I’m in London, visiting Benedict Cumberbatch. Not the actual Benedict Cumberbatch, you understand, but the wax version that was recently unveiled at Madame Tussauds. I’m in the middle a whole lot of CumberCollective members, and (though I don’t really affiliate myself as a Cumberbabe, or Cumberbitch, or whatever they are calling themselves these days) their enthusiasm is rather infectious. I’m right there in the throng, looking and acting suspiciously like a Cumberbitch, busy trying to get a selfie with Benedict. I can’t seem to get it right. (What was it Guylty said? Chin out, tilt head… I don’t have the art of the selfie down at all!) After some dreadful results on my first several attempts, I decide to move to a less crowded area to practice my selfie. Once I have the knack of it, I will re-enter the fray and try for a better one with Benedict.
I move down a corridor, looking for a private area where I can practice with my cell phone. I see a door marked “Private” and that is exactly what I’ve been looking for. (Part of me knows I’m not authorized to go in there, but my dream self is apparently willing to break the rules in the name of Benedict Cumberbatch.) I knock hesitantly on the door, and there is no response, so I try the door knob, and find it unlocked. I slip into the darkened room, and feel for a light switch, but there is none. This appears to be a storage area, but there is a dimly lit doorway across the room that appears to have a light source.
I enter the connecting room, which is dimly lit with small lights along the floorboards, but I am able to make out that there are tall wax figures (perfect for practicing!) in here. I find an overhead light switch, flip it on, and what I see here takes my breath. My heart begins to thud, because I’ve just stumbled onto something that as far as I know, is a Real Scoop for my true fandom, the Richard Armitage fandom. We’ve all been wondering if Richard Armitage would ever have his day at Madame Tussauds… and it appears that he secretly has!
Five life-sized wax figures are arranged
in various poses around the room…
John Proctor is standing in the center,
John Thornton, wearing his top hat,
stands gazing pensively, as if waiting,
with one hand behind his back,
and a small stack of books in the other.
Guy of Gisborne leans casually
against a post, arms crossed,
with a slight smirk.
Lucas North has a weapon in one hand,
and the other hand touching his ear,
as if listening to an ear mic.
Harry Kennedy is dressed for a
walk in the countryside,
and looks casually relaxed and cheerful.
I am absolutely amazed at my perfect, blind luck! I immediately begin taking pictures from all angles of these gorgeous works of wax. I’ve completely forgotten about practicing selfies, and it doesn’t occur to me to attempt to do selfies with these Richard Armitage characters. They’re too beautiful… I’m thinking to myself that either the management at Madame Tussauds, or one of the wax artists, must be a huge fan of Richard’s work, and am greatly puzzled about why these amazing pieces are not on display in the museum. Is it a work in progress, with more characters to be added? Certainly Thorin ought to have a place, I muse, and John Porter. Even sweetie John Standring, heroic dad Gary WhatsHisName, or Lee in his speedo, would be admirable additions!
I’m so caught up studying these figures in minute detail that I lose track of time. I’m done taking shots of the overall figures, and have moved on to close-ups of elegant hands, chiseled lips, elfish ears and expressive blue eyes. I’m in the middle of a particularly compelling close up of John Thornton’s hand, when the overhead light goes off. A clock chimes somewhere out in the main area of the museum, and I realize it’s midnight! Suddenly aware that I must have missed the closing time, I start to move toward the door, when I hear a distinct click of a lock, and retreating footsteps. Security guard? I move out into the room that I first entered, try the door, and find myself locked in the room! I’m about to call out, when I hear a noise behind me, and all the hairs on my arms stand up.
As far as I knew, I was alone in these rooms. So who was that?
I slowly turn around, and though the lighting is very dim, I see that the wax figure of John Proctor is now seated, with his face in one hand, much like he sat in the opening of The Crucible. He’s not moving; he’s still as wax. Nevertheless, chills run up and down my spine. I could have sworn he was standing a moment ago! My heart is now racing and I am feeling true fear. It’s clear to me that I’ve left a pleasant fantasy world, and entered a horror story instead. I hear another small noise, creep nearer, and see that Gisborne is now looking down, studying a drawn knife. There is now an expression of deadly ferocity on his face. He’s not moving, either, but I know (that I know that I know!) he didn’t have a knife a few minutes ago. He was smirking! His arms were crossed! I have the pictures to prove it!
I slowly and silently sink down to the floor, pressing my cheek against the wall; I am filled with dread and awe… my limbs feel hollow, my lips feel numb. I Must Not Turn My Back On Them. I peek around the door frame again, and now Thornton has moved! He’s taken his hat off with his free hand, and is now looking expectantly up, as if he’s on Margaret’s doorstep. I don’t even want to know what Lucas is up to- if he even is Lucas– what if that’s actually his alter ego John Bateman? That one had a freaking gun last I knew!
As the minutes tick by, I am frozen on the floor, having no idea what kind of alternate reality I’ve fallen into. I hear an occasional scuffing sound, but mostly there is nothing but silence, and the sound of my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. My mind is racing with possibilities, and at some point, I begin to ponder which of these wax figures I could trust the most, in the event that Lucas or Guy, with their weapons, should discover me! I instinctively believe that Harry is probably harmless, but I’m not certain whether the accountant is up to defending me against a warrior like Guy, or a trained operative like Lucas. I know Thornton is good at fisticuffs, but when I last dared to look, he seemed distracted, like his thoughts are on Margaret, so I think I’m going to have to rely on John Proctor. I’m not planning to appeal to Proctor unless I’m in dire need, but I feel better having a plan.
As I sit petrified, hardly daring to breathe, wondering what the hell is going on, I naturally start to second-guess myself. For all I know, these animated wax figures are nothing like the characters they portray. Harry Kennedy could be a smiling psychopath. John Proctor could be the Devil’s familiar! I keep hearing small movements in the dimly lit room, but I no longer have the courage to try to see what the wax figures are up to.
After an interminable period of waiting and wondering, I begin to hear footsteps in the corridor. They draw nearer, but I don’t know if I can, or indeed should, say anything. I don’t know if that’s even a human! For all I know, that could be the wax figure of Adolf Hitler marching around out there! I decide to stay silent.
To my escalating horror, I hear the footsteps stop outside in the corridor. There is a key in the lock, and the door opens. Two women come in, and they are cloaked mysteriously. Whispering to each other, they move past me without ever looking down, and enter the room with the Richard Armitage characters. I hear one of the women whisper that Harry looks to be in the easiest position to carry, and soon they emerge, with soft grunts and staggering slightly, carrying Harry Kennedy horizontally, one at the shoulder level and one at the knee level. Harry’s face is toward me, and I am incredibly creeped out when his eyes lock with mine and stay focused on me as he is carried past. Harry is no longer smiling.
I abruptly decide to try to sneak out in the wake of the two women, judging that they may be distracted enough not to hear me, as they are themselves making a moderate amount of noise as they carry the tall figure of Harry Kennedy through the room. Slipping in behind them, I reach the door to the corridor, and just as I am making my escape, I see an extra cloak hanging from a coat rack just inside the storage room. I snatch the cloak and don it, pulling the hood up just in time. The women shuffle to a stop, so they may shut the door behind them, and they see me. I freeze, but they can’t see my face, and although they mutter in surprise, they assume I am one of them. The woman closest to me asks me to close the door and lock it. I close the door, and fake like I have a key and am locking it.
At this point, I have no choice but to follow along. The women are beginning to huff and puff with the effort of carrying such a large burden. After a short distance, the woman at Harry’s knees orders a stop, and she grunts that she will move to the waist if I can get the knees. I comply, now helping to lighten the load. I am stunned when I realize that Harry’s knees are warm. They flex a little, and I murmur that he’s trying to bend his legs, and the woman in front says, quietly but authoritatively, “None of that, Harry! No funny business!”
We make our way through what seems like endless corridors and then finally to a long stairwell, which we descend. I don’t care to imagine what new terrors might lurk down in the… basement? Dungeon? When we reach the bottom of the stairwell, I see there are dozens of cloaked and hooded women, standing in a circle in what appears to be some sort of cavernous grotto. Above us is a candle chandelier. All of the figures except me have yellow roses pinned to their cloaks. I realize this is some sort of Armitage faction, as the yellow roses are a symbol in North and South. Then I see the poppets. Many of the women are cradling creepy little poppets… poppets of cloth, with needles glinting in the candlelight, that look straight out of The Crucible.
What signifies these poppets?
We set Harry on his feet in the center of the circle, and he crouches there, knees slightly bent. I am Really Not Feeling Comfortable with whatever is going on here. I seem to be taking my cues from Harry, who has a posture of intimidation, hunched shoulders, hands fisted, and a hunted expression. He stands perfectly still. The women begin to chant.
The clock chimes one time, indicating that an hour has passed since all the weirdness began. I start to back toward the stairwell, and this draws the attention of a tall woman who appears to be leading the chant. She suddenly points a pale finger at me, and asks me where is my “Automata Rose”… I don’t know what an Automata Rose is, and take another step backward. My mind races, and it hits me that “Automata” would be plural for “Automaton”, which does seem to describe these otherworldly wax figurines.
I’m frozen with indecision, when another woman suddenly drops her poppet and shrieks “Imposter!” and a third shouts “Stop it, Harry!” I glance at Harry, and see that he’s staring at me with a fierce and pleading expression, and he’s pointing to the stairs. I don’t need another cue. I spin and run straight out of the room, slamming the door behind me. In my panicked flight, I hear footsteps in pursuit behind me, but I never look back. I reach the top of the stairs and sprint faster. I take several wild turns, having no idea where I’m going, and soon I hear another set of pounding footsteps in front of me!
I hurtle onward, finally rounding another corner and then I see the source of the footsteps I’m running toward… it’s a security guard! I am far more afraid of the cult-like women and their horrible poppets than I am of the security guard, so I run straight for him, and am very relieved when he loudly orders a halt. Because when I halt, so, too, do my pursuers. The security guard seems more irritated than dangerous, as he sternly tells me that I’m in past visitor hours and that he will have to escort me out immediately. He stops to listen, as if momentarily wondering what happened to the other footsteps, but all is silent, and I know that the women have abandoned the chase. Whatever they are doing here, I know now, is unsanctioned.
I have escaped. And abandoned Harry to I know not what.
* * *
I really don’t know what to make of this dream! Nightmares are rare for me. Ludicrous as the dream now seems, it did in fact freak me out at the time… when I woke up, I remember having sweaty palms and feeling short of breath… consistent with an actual adrenaline release! The dream actually happened several nights ago, after I’d been to see the 2011 National Theatre production of Frankenstein at the local cinema. Perhaps that idea of animated creatures, plus some of the discussions I’ve been following recently about the nature of the Richard Armitage fandom (how well do we know it)… may have inspired it.
Paging Dr. Scott White…. can you analyze this, sir?
You could say I have Thornton on the brain today. It’s a welcome relief. Ever since London, I have had a massive John Proctor problem. I was so affected by The Crucible experience that until just a couple of weeks ago, I was unable to concentrate on any works of fiction, whether audiobook or written, no matter how much I wanted to. Some audible releases I’d been waiting months for came out, but I just couldn’t pay attention long enough to get into them. I had several unfinished novels on my Kindle, abandoned so I could read and re-read The Crucible, hearing each distinct character voice so clearly in my head. It wasn’t until The Armitage Authors Network came online, and Kelbel75 posted about her FanFic Gateway that I decided enough was enough, so I searched my Kindle cloud and found A Heart For Milton by Trudy Brasure, which I purchased months ago in the midst of my North and South preoccupation, but hadn’t read yet. (Does anyone else have a hopelessly long list of audiobook and digital book files in the cloud? I can’t imagine myself ever getting through my own library. Especially now that I’m so preoccupied all the time…)
So I’ve started A Heart For Milton and I’m only about 15% into the story, but I’ve been transported back to the beloved setting. I love how Trudy Brasure has captured the essence of John Thornton’s ways of speech, because my brain just fills in Richard’s gorgeous voice in every dialogue. This has really gotten me off the John Proctor fixation track, for which I am profoundly grateful. Much as I love him, I needed a break from Salem and from Proctor’s passionately hopeless heroics.
Yesterday, Servetus posted a pic of the moment I like to think of as “my moment”- the moment when Richard Armitage first not only came onto my radar, but overwhelmed me with his singular combination of
freakishly gorgeous appearance and magnetically compelling performance… that magical moment when he roared “Stephens! Put that pipe out!” It’s a bit of an odd moment to fall in love at first sight, but that’s pretty much exactly what occurred. Funny how I’m quite sure that had I been in Margaret Hale’s shoes at the moment, I would have been shocked and repelled by the violent outburst that follows. The men in my life, thank heavens, just don’t behave that way, and no matter how well he looked… all tall, dark and cravated… I would have been leery of becoming involved with him. Nonetheless, it was this very outburst of physicality, this shouting, chasing and pummeling, that captured my fascination with the character, and by association, the actor behind the performance. The moment he threw the horrified and indignant Margaret out of the mill, I knew it would be a love story to remember.
What would be the appeal of conquering Mr. Darcy without his initial hatefully rude condescension? Likewise, Mr. Thornton without his raw and unrefined brutality would not have been as riveting without this moment. Had the 2004 BBC production followed the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, with Margaret never once entering Marlborough Mills, thereby never setting Miss Hale and Mr. Thornton at such dramatic odds, I wonder if I would have fallen quite so hard, or become quite so fascinated, with Mr. Thornton… and later Richard.
Probably. After all, I just adore smoldering, angst, betrayal,
hot male brooding and sexual tension in film and in fiction, so what followed as the plot unfolded was an inevitably escalating fascination with the character and storyline. I was amazed to discover a character, in Thornton, capable of out-Darcying Mr. Darcy himself.
What was your “moment”?
Thanks to Lauren Oakenshield for taking the time to combine the audio of my favorite narrator reading an excerpt from the beautiful proposal scene in Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel, with the visual of my favorite actor in character! Love it =)
I read North and South only after watching the BBC production, and personally I liked both the proposal scene and the final scene in the film better than the book. I don’t think anything could improve upon the 2004 BBC adaptation in my heart and mind. It was my gateway drug into Armitage Affliction. That being said, the original text is romantic and beautiful in its own way, and listening to an Armitage narration is never a waste of time. I only wish he’d narrate the novel in its entirety.
And every other book I might ever like to listen to.
Preoccupied with Armitage, but how does that happen?
Neck deep in a fandom, I’d never imagined
I was never the type
To follow the hype
But my Richard problem has yet to slacken.
On facebook and forums, blogs and webpages
Are countless admirers of all cultures and ages
Since few are harsh critics
I composed more RA limericks
To explain my Affliction in stages!
Six months ago, I was a normal wife
I’d not yet discovered the Richarding life
My downfall was fast
I fear it will last
But the pleasures it’s brought me are rife.
It began with an extended Pride and Prejudice kick
With Colin, and Matthew, and LB Diaries clicks
When I finished all these
I googled “If you liked P&P”
And saw a BBC drama that might do the trick.
With the Netflix app on my little phone screen
I was soon comfortably watching, my interest keen
Period drama from the BBC
On par with Persuasion or Downton Abbey
That was before Thornton’s first scene.
Then Margaret marched into Marlborough Mill
I laid eyes on John Thornton, and felt the first chill
With one shout at Stephens
My heart rate was uneven
From then on, it’s all been downhill!
Entranced with that smolder and each eyelid flicker
Lapping up that deep voice, like a fine aged liquor
Flutters and goosebumps when John proposed
And need I mention that long gorgeous nose?
Never has a man in cravat cut such a fine figure!
The train station scene probably sealed my fate
His tender hand such an elegant trait
How many times did I replay that kiss?
I’ve lost count, but I do know this
Its effect has yet to abate!
So off to IMDB I immediately sped
And was shocked to the core the moment I read
I’d spent 6 hours or more
Watching RA as a dwarf
But his allure went right over my head!
The next thing I did, after several replays
Was check Wikipedia without delay
Is Armitage married, who is his girlfriend?
Found out he was single, but there details end
And I discovered much more that day.
Pretty soon I was over at Richard Armitage Central
All the time wondering if I had gone mental
I stumbled onto his letters
Which hooked me forever
With charm and humility so gentle.
On Netflix I watched Harry, Lucas and Guy
Bought a new DVD player and a stack pretty high
Of just about everything RA ever did
All the while watching hot YouTube vids
Bemused to find myself so damn mesmerized!
I lurked for 2 months, and knew I wasn’t alone
Though among real life acquaintances, RA was not known
Before long I joined two separate forums
Where constant RA discussion is normal decorum
And I quickly found myself feeling right at home.
Heard about The Crucible, and I began to conspire
Just a quick trip to London before my one chance expired
How could I resist such artistry in action?
On stage, in the flesh, with no shirt- what distRAction!
So I approached the husband, which made me perspire…
Right about then, Hubby knew it was bad
Had his sensible wife gone stark-raving mad?
Yes, he’d watched Thorin, Thornton and Porter
But when did his wife become this fanatical supporter?
He neither wanted to go, nor wanted me sad.
So with Hubby’s blessing, the planning commenced
And Mom jumped on board, so easily convinced
That a trip to see Richard perform in a play
Should be marked on her calendar without delay
But any more than three viewings, she was strongly against!
Meanwhile, Richard Armitage got a wild hair
He up and joined Twitter and soon I, too, was there!
Even prior to joining
I spent each night enjoying
Pics and tweets from the Stage Door affair.
I never imagined, at the start of the summer
He’d do Stage Door ‘til the end, which was a bit of a bummer.
To my growing delight
He showed up each night
His endurance an ongoing wonder!
As for The Crucible at The Old Vic
John Proctor’s performance made me heartsick
What more can be said?
My soul John did shred…
Then minutes later we posed for a pic!
When I returned home from London, a blog I did start
As my Armitage Affliction is still off the charts
Before long I might make my own YouTube vids
In between doctoring animals, and raising the kids
As I wonder if and when Richard will relinquish my heart.
P.S. If you’ve read to the end, and enjoyed these rhymes
May I suggest the RAC forum for more good times
The limericks there are not to be missed
They cover each RA character, right down the list
And are one more addiction of mine!
I think I should not whinge about travel woes, but I will go so far as to say that I probably made a mistake booking The Crucible Night 1 on the very day of our arrival. I had my reasons… a bit of online reconnaissance and a desire to be splashed by John Proctor’s ablutions led me to require at least one seating in F17 or thereabouts. Trouble was, that section was booked on all available performances except Thursday, August 28. However, as we were supposed to arrive prior to 10am, I thought Mom and I would have ample time to nap away our jet lag. Plus, we could sleep on the airplane, right? Cue violins, as none of that happened. Odious back-to-back flight delays, 2 hours in customs, taxi woes, and our room not even ready when we finally did arrive… let’s just say our luck was horrid and leave it at that.
All this to say, I was seriously jet-lagged at this performance. Servetus mentioned that some theatre-goers were to be seen sleeping during the performance, and I cringe to admit that to my horror and embarrassment, Mom was one of those. In fact, Servetus was there that night, and she may well have been referring to Mom. Yes, there in the front row, Mom mostly slept, despite many discreet elbow nudges as well as onstage shouts, chases, children’s gyrations, toppled chairs and impassioned speeches. I sigh, remembering this. I can only hope that the principals (and ensemble) were too focused on their craft to have noticed Mom and her “Crucible Sampler” approach. Suffice it to say, she’ll never live it down. Let’s move on.
Thankfully, no amount of sleep deprivation would have prevented someone with Advanced Armitage Affliction from staying glued to the performance. The overriding impression upon my first viewing, was this: Richard Armitage is wondrously devastating in person! Pictures and even video, for me, no longer do the man justice. It’s in the way he blinks his eyelashes, the intensity of his gaze, the movements of his throat muscles, the elegance of his ears, the eloquence of his hands. We are all aware of his powerful magnetism on screen, but in person that physicality just bowled me over to a degree that I had not anticipated. By all that’s holy, he’s gorgeous.
The moment he appeared in Act 1, charging up the stairs snarling at his servant, I experienced abdominal flutters and tachycardia for several minutes just from his presence. I felt I couldn’t draw a deep breath. I began to wonder if I would be able to forget he was Richard Armitage, but his performance was so magnificent that of course it happened. Within minutes, he was no longer Armitage, but John Proctor. And with John Proctor, at least RA’s portrayal, I fell into the kind of love I feel for John Thornton. As much as I admire Daniel Day-Lewis, his Proctor couldn’t hold a candle to Armitage. (I’ll take Hawkeye over DDL’s Proctor any day of the week. But I’ll take RA’s Proctor over every other role he or any other tremendously compelling actor has done to date.)
That being said, there just aren’t words to describe how fantastic this play was for me. I was enthralled and absorbed completely. To my surprise, I would have loved this production even without Richard. This speaks to the strength of the entire ensemble, not a weak link anywhere, as well as the absolute beauty of the choreography, lighting, music, and the spare, rustic set in the round. Yael Farber is a Rock Star! I will gladly see anything she’s involved with in the future, given the chance. Absolutely the most incredible play I’ve ever seen.
Naturally, Richard Armitage took it from fabulous to “out of the ballpark“…. I was by turns moved and touched, frightened and miserable, tearful and laughing. He was so vulnerable, so broken, so exhausted at different moments that I felt powerfully compelled to leave my seat, to go to Proctor and comfort him. (That would have been even more of a gaffe than sleeping in the front row. Glad I refrained.) I was particularly struck by his performance at the water scene. I really expected to be ogling (gawping a la Quentin Letts) during that scene, and I did, just a little. But what really fascinated me were those lovely little gasps and convulsive shudders as he washed. It was beautifully done.
So yes, I was electrified by Richard Armitage’s live performance. When the man gets physical, it’s terrifying. He chases Abigail in one scene, Mary Warren in another… I actually experienced skipped heartbeats as he rounded the stage! That chemistry between Proctor and Abigail was hot, and it was hot in a guilty, wretched way. The chemistry between Proctor and Elizabeth was also potent, but in a powerfully poignant and wistful, almost unrequited way. I ached for them. The play in its entirety was devastating, and I will share my impressions of some the later Acts in future posts.
Much to my astonishment, there was a standing ovation, but it didn’t happen until the end of the applause, when the cast came out for the second time. This baffled me, as I was ready to stand immediately, despite my shakiness at the conclusion. With Mom barely able to keep her eyes open, and myself bowled over and completely overwrought from my first experience of Armitage in living action, we decided to do the stage door another night. We returned to the hotel, which was a very short walk from The Old Vic. Mom was funny. She insisted she loved it. I told her she was in for a real treat next time, because it was even better awake. We had to laugh. Despite the humor, I was already touched with a vague apprehension that I had seriously underestimated the satisfactory number of times to see The Crucible, yet it was sold out. Simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted, I couldn’t sleep.