3 September 2014

"The play makes me want to tear my own flesh off my bones",
said wonderful actor Richard Armitage in an honest talk about The Crucible

Admirers of Richard Armitage and fans of The Crucible play as rendered by Yael Farber were invited to join a one-of-a-kind event in September, right at the theatre, less than 2 weeks before the final performance.

Ticket sales were announced sometime during summer and all seats were occupied in the blink of an eye. For some reason I didn't even try to attend (having understood that only Old Vic community members would be entitled to tickets) but fate eventually stepped in and the glorious RA fandom provided me with a ticket. Even better, it came from a friend whom I've met earlier in the season, when seeing the play.

I arrived at The Old Vic at 4:30pm and there was already a happy crowd of adoring fans. Having been around for many times, I can tell this round it felt so different: a special vibe, different from the performance time. A very happy day, with smiling faces all around and very obvious excitement. Those people... I am sure I must have crossed virtual paths with many of them on social networks... and here we are, we meet, we greet - those of us who planned to do so or who are able to recognise each other.

Time to enter the building, take a few more photos with the fancy mirror made famous by the RA himself and go to our seats (for me - right in the middle of the Lilian Baylis circle - not bad!). Right next to me, there was a man who got his notebook ready and started taking notes. I did the same and I am glad I did, because the chat transcripts have missed on a lot of important things.

We witness the final preparations. Cameras are in place (hooray!) and there are 2 red velvet cushion chairs in the middle of the stage, with a small table between them. In the audience, I can see people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s...

The well-known humble nature of the beloved actor showed right from the start. There was no kind of announcement, nothing whatsoever - Richard just stepped in and had our spontaneous applause. His presence, the smile and tone of his voice, as well as the audience laughing, gasping and so on, made it feel just like a meeting between friends - hundreds of friends. It was an intimate feeling, something that could only resemble my experience at The Hobbit film premiere in Madrid.

The following come straight from my notes and please forgive if there are any mistakes:

Richard describes the play's evolution "like watching a child grow".

He was "shocked" (in a positive and inspiring way) by the audience reacting (through laughter or breathing). "The audience feeds the play".

To him, it was all about "being at the right time in the right place: the director, the Old Vic..."

The flashbacks: "I was a 20-year old actor who knew nothing about life".

"I was in a musical, in Cats, but I actually grew up and knew what I wanted to do".

"The play makes me want to tear my own flesh off my bones" (while it was still in talks and was questioned on how he felt about the role)

It was "a privilege to take the character to that place" (and who could have done it better?)

"When he calls for God at the end... I feel an ascent".

There were also the fun bits - for example at a matinee he had a bit of carrot from Elizabeth's stew stuck in his throat.

Confessed how scared he was during rehearsals, complaining to Yael about having to do the play even twice in a day. Often said, "I don't know if I can do another one" but "the play takes you there".

The play will keep evolving to the last performance.

"I find it disrespectful to just shut him (Proctor) off" at the end of the play, so Proctor stays with him.

Went to Salem, milked cows, cleaned dirt, made a wooden axe.

"I listen to a lot of classical music". Also plays weird music in his dressing room, which "keeps people away". Then stays in the dark for the last 15 minutes before the play starts.

Has the play changed him? "I suppose I already feel changed (...) Proctor has opened a part of myself that has frightened me before but no longer is".

There was only time to answer two fan questions, but we were promised another chance to ask more through Twitter. All in all, on this 2nd and sunny day of September I enjoyed such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, with the audience laughing heartily so often... a truly fulfilling event. It lasted for approximately 45 minutes and afterwards some of us went to have a glass of wine downstairs in The Pit Bar. We literally couldn't contain our emotions. The excitement pushed us to share things on Twitter. Funnily, Richard himself was doing that, too - in the same building, only in different rooms, of course. While we were writing our updates, he also tweeted, which was lovely.

Many thanks to all who made this possible and to the dear ladies I met - you know who you are! I wish I had spent some time with those whom I didn't know that well, but time isn't always on our side!


  1. Really great transcript of the Q&A. It was a nice experience to see In conversation and to meet again with so many people in London.

    1. Thank you, I tried my best! I know there are some mistakes in it, but I wanted to put it out there because I didn't know there would be transcripts. Oh yes, seeing Richard in London is fabulous, but so is meeting other fans!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like everyone had a wonderful time. Wish I could have been there as well.

    I love your notes. I always hang on Richard's words when he talks about his art because I learn a lot from him about building characters and making them feel like real people. That helps me a great deal with writing.

    1. Cheers Liv! Thank you so much for your comment. You know, I really feel like taking up acting, he is so inspiring! Now I would know how to approach a role. I had attempts in the past, but I knew nothing and had no one to really look up to. True that, it's also helpful with the writing. I guess a huge dream of mine would be to write one day a role for Richard :)