Like everyone else among my friends who admire the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage, I am tickled pink, purple, yellow, and green–upcoming Easter egg colors, don’t you know, Ha!–that he will be performing in The Old Vic’s June 24 to September 13, 2014 production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible!
The Crucible is a great play–and not just for the way it reflects the historical themes of lust and intolerance and love and betrayal and revenge and morality and power and hypocrisy and ethics, etc., from two eras three centuries apart! At right is a lovely fan made poster for Richard Armitage and newcomer Samantha Colley (portraying Abigail Williams) starring in The Crucible created by Richard Armitage (Mr. Thornton) al Sofa and Carpet. Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible chronicles the fictional happenings in a Salem Witch Trials era late 1600’s town, sadly reflective of the hysteria and accusations of witchcraft that claimed the lives of innocent people. For more about the play, The Crucible, visit this Spark Notes site.
But The Crucible was also about modern times in 1938 to 1950’s America when patriotism was at a fever pitch during and after WWII. A time when being interested in communism or socialism would get you labeled UnAmerican and summarily blacklisted–as in prevented from working and earning living, unless you used a pseudonym or had someone else pass off your work as their own. This modern day hysteria came to the forefront for creative types with the nine day hearing by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) in late November 1947 that resulted in prominent filmmakers being blacklisted and who became known as the Hollywood Ten.
And it is interesting to note that although Miller’s play was first performed in 1953, it wasn’t until 1956 that he was called before HUAC to name names–trying to pressure him to identify and bear witness against his friends and colleagues, to save himself. Unlike others, Miller did not betray anyone, but “Miller’s experience with HUAC affected him throughout his life.” Born in 1915, Arthur Miller died in 2005–eight months shy of his 90th birthday. But what a legacy he left!
And now The Old Vic will produce a new version of The Crucible–with South African playwrite and director Yael Farber directing and Soutra Gilmore serving as the designer. And this version of the play will be performed in the round in The Old Vic’s beautiful theatre (right). I’m in awe of actors anyway, but to have a 360 degree view of them as they share the story through their character portrayals must be an amazing experience. The stage here looks quite small–though visual perspective might be deceiving here–with the seating so close and intimate that everyone looks to have an excellent view. Our own community’s annual Summer Shakespeare Festival is three quarters round–leaving the back wall for balconies, entrances, and exits, etc.
But at The Old Vic theatre, how are the actors going to perform–allowing everyone good view–without seeming like they are turning around on a spit, or on microwave turntable? I think the logistics of theatre in the round performance will be just as crucial as portraying the torment of the characters–and to make the adjustment the actors have to make for theatre in the round seem effortless and not noticeable. And then there is the notion of how detailed the sets might be–my layperson’s guess is they will have minimal sets/props/artifacts that are suggestive and evocative of a place and time, but that costuming and makeup will be very important.
However, I imagine that performing The Crucible in a theatre in the round format is both a thrilling and a terrifying feature of this production. As an audience member I would find it thrilling. And Richard Armitage has run through real fire (THAUJ, right), been waterboarded twice for tv roles (Spooks; and Strike Back Origins), and almost drowned a couple of times (Captain America, The First Avenger; and THDofS), so theatre in the round is probably like a walk in the park to him. Richard Armitage, the man and the actor, is fearless–and I predict that he will dig deep within his own psyche and experiences to bring to vivid life the character of John Proctor whose torments of desire, self loathing, betrayal, humanity, and morality, will enthrall, disgust, and move his audience to tears.
But alas, I will not be able to attend the play and experience what I know in my heart will be another riveting character portrayal by Richard Armitage. The distance from Illinois to London would require plane travel–something I haven’t done for fifteen years (I’m a fraidy cat), since our vacation to Florida. Then there is the whole travel cost factor–probably about a mortgage payments worth. And as much as I would love to be sitting in the audience to see Richard Armitage perform this wonderful play, my practical nature won’t let me splurge using money designated for other things. So Mr. Armitage and The Old Vic’s ArtisticDirector Kevin Spacey will either need to bring this production to Broadway–hint hint, NYC is accessible by train for me–or The Old Vic will have to tape a performance and broadcast it via the BBC and/or PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre for myself and others to be able to see it. The Old Vic could really make a tidy sum on the broadcast rights and dvds–and that would surely help fund their productions and educational programs.
And since my hubby and I can’t travel across the pond to see Richard Armitage performing in The Crucible, we have made a modest donation to The Old Vic, under my real name, Ha!–to help support their productions and educational programs, in honor of Richard Armitage. And I’m a huge fan of The Old Vic’s Artistic Director, Kevin Spacey–a fellow Yank–who is one of the United States premiere actors. Gosh! I wish I could also experience Mr. Spacy’s Clarence Darrow one man show at The Old Vic. If you would also like to donate to The Old Vic, here is the link for The Old Vic Support Us page (right; notice Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame portraying Eliza in The Old Vic’s 2008 production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion):
P.S. A reminder: The Old Vic’s page has donations in British Pounds Sterling. So if you are doing a currency converter for your country, be sure that you go pounds to your currency–not the other way around. Otherwise, you might end up donating a little bit more than you intended–like me. Ha! Oh well. It’s for a good cause, the arts!