Diary of an RA Fan — Part 19 “the important thing is that you play truly.”

See Diary Part 18 here, or to access all entries, hit “The Diary” tab above.

Entry — Fall, 2008

Autumn is finally here in earnest, and its beauty usually makes me pensive. But this year I feel rushed. There is so much I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve done almost nothing. Dad’s gone and Mom’s not in great health, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from talking about England. That’s all she ever talks about, and I know full well the chance we’ll go there is almost nil. She is simply not up to it, and I can’t be gone for another month. The world would stop around here if I were gone for a month as I was last summer. Then again, maybe that would be a good thing. LOL!

I was driving over to see Mimi the other day. I love to drive to Mimi’s. It takes me on one of my favorite routes. The trees are close to the road and seem to glow as if they’re lighting the way to somewhere sublime. I swear they’re backlit by something other than the sun. Even though I love visiting Mimi, I wanted to just sit in the woods. It was a gorgeous day, truly a halcyon day — sunny but cool and barely a cloud in the sky. Just enough clouds to make the sky seem painted. Yeah, sometimes it’s so blue it doesn’t look real. I’m blessed to live here.

But I’m not satisfied. I wonder what that really feels like. Maybe I experienced it when SO and I were coming to know each other or when we had the little SOs. I certainly love them all more than I can express, but feeling satisfied is so fleeting, I’m not sure I’ve experienced it. Maybe it’s not supposed to last long. I don’t know. So much I don’t know, and there’ s not much time to figure it out.

I haven’t watched any Richard Armitage for a couple of weeks, and I’m feeling some withdrawal. That simply can’t happen. It’s an inexpensive thrill for me even if I do have several hundred dollars invested, and I’m going to continue. And whom does it hurt? I watch when I have time! ROFLOL!! Yeah, I’ve made time for it, but I’ve got to have some outlet or I’ll go nuts, and I don’t want to go nuts again. I’d rather re-immerse myself in Robin Hood even though the frustration lingers about its ending and my silly urge to blame someone hasn’t gone away. Dominic Minghella, the chief writer, is apparently the guilty party. Must find out more about him because I need to understand how someone could develop those characters and then use them like that? Or maybe it was just over my head.

I’ve got to put all of that aside. At least long enough to rewatch the show; otherwise, it will be a constant specter, and I’ll never figure out what fascinates me so much about a character who’s a thug, and of course I realize he wants redemption. Redemption stories are almost always powerful, but I’ve never had quite this reaction to such a minor character.

I could dismiss it as mere objectification of Richard Armitage. Damn. No! But oh his movements are beautiful. Even his seemingly languid movements are rife with something begging to be explored. His movements in total are imbued with something I just can’t name. I would love to describe what it is, but words fail. They always fail. I guess I’m lazy. If it’s not easy to say, I drop it and move on. I’ve always had a problem expressing myself about anything that moves me deeply except to sometimes fob it off with a crack. But something truly fitting for what I feel never comes. My words never sound as I want them to sound. They’re prosaic, and I cringe at them.

A few days later:

I started reading Stanislavski. That’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a teen and became fascinated with Brando and James Dean. Richard Armitage reminds me of those two more than any other actors. In my mind he’s those two fused. When I was a kid, Mom referenced the Actors Studio where Brando and Dean studied. She also spoke some of Stella Adler. From there it wasn’t too many steps to pique my interest in Stanislavski. I should have read him years ago. Only a few pages into his book and I was intrigued. He is speaking of things I’ve thought but didn’t feel free to pursue. To pursue them would be playing mind games, but heck, I’ve done that anyway. I wonder how much better I could have expressed myself if I had let my mind unfocus and tap into my subconscious. What I’m loving is that I have finally figured out what Richard Armitage is doing that has sucked me in so thoroughly!

This explains a lot and contains a description of what happens to me when I watch Richard:

The fundamental aim of our art is the creation of this inner life of a human spirit, and its expression in an artistic form… Our experience has led to a firm belief that only our kind of art, soaked as it is in the living experiences of human beings, can artistically reproduce the impalpable shadings and depths of life. Only such art can completely absorb the spectator and make both understand and also inwardly experience the happenings on the stage, enriching his inner life, and leaving impressions which will not fade with time. — Spoken by Director Tortsov from An Actor Prepares

The inner man he’s created, the inner life is playing out, and the truth of it is so beautiful I can’t get enough. There’s a sanity to it that I’ve seldom seen in an actor. Maybe I’ve never seen it.

“Impalpable shadings and depths of life.” What a way to describe it. Perfect really. John Thornton drinking tea at the Hale’s, nodding his head but unable to look at or speak to his mother after his rejection from Margaret, agonizing at the train station before Margaret comes back to him with her portmanteau. John Standring having his mouth full of sausage, being frustrated at his body’s impatience in an intimate moment with Carol, grinning at Carol as he tries on a suit. And Guy. Guy awkwardly holding the Sheriff’s bird, lighting up when he realizes the nun is a fake, looking intently at Marian when he sees she’s not wearing her betrothal ring, beaming when he comes to tell her the king is returning, rushing up like a little boy to her before the wedding. The ring of truth in these moments completely submerges Richard Armitage and the person he’s fashioned is there thinking and feeling and drawing me into his story.

“Will not fade with time.” Certainly I will remember John Thornton’s sweet eyes looking at Margaret as she explains her business proposition or Guy saying to his servant Thornton that the thing is to be understood.

[note: imagine my grin a year later when I read RA’s crack in this article. There will be more about all of this. It’s too much for one post. Oh, and I went on to read more Stanislavski and some Grotowski and Vakhtangov. Phew.]

Quote in the title from Mikhail Shchepkin.

See Diary Part 20 here.

12 Comments

  1. LOL! I blame any misspellings on my subconscious. Apparently, it doesn’t spell so well. ;-)

  2. Autumn is my favourite time of year, but looking at the beautiful picture of the trees above, I’m glad that we’ve still got some weeks to go yet here in Norway as it signals the start of a long winter.

    You write very poetically about the magic described by Tortsov and created by Richard when he brings his characters to life. That’s what sets him apart from most actors today. I agree with Torstov that being present in a theatre and experiencing actors on a stage “enriches the spectators’ inner life and leaves lasting impressions”, a truly life-enhancing experience!

  3. I love these posts of yours. He actually reminds me a lot of Jimmy Stewart. If there was ever a remake of “Harvey” I could totally see him as Elwood Doud.

  4. It’s so good to have another diary entry (finally!) as I enjoy them so much, yes I can imagine your grin on reading the interview. Makes me want to go to the theatre. I think that he does try to be a truthful actor, and he is amazingly skilful. But overall I do find it hard to describe what makes him so compelling to me, obviously he is incredibly handsome – and that must be part of it, but so are a lot of other actors who I don’t find compelling. So I appreciate the journey you are taking us on here.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this latest entry. Just wanted you to know.

  6. Whilst rrying to write a Guy of Gisborne story, I have had need to examine Richard’s presentation of the role and whilst it would be easy to fob it off as a well-made man doing his thing, it is indeed so much more subtle and three-dimensional. It is the use of every single piece of the body . . . a glance, the movements of eyelids, a hand gesture, an almost but not quite immobile mouth, a voice where timbre changes as the emotion changes, walking in a certain way, riding a horse with confidence, moving the folds of a cloak or handling a sword.
    None of it is twee, although the same could not be said for the others in Robin Hood. For a writer, to examine work of such subtlety is such a lesson in characterisation and I’ll be trying my damndest to pull it off.
    Fascinating diary entry.

  7. Thank you for the Torstov excerpt. Have read quite a bit about acting, but from the actors’ or critics’ perspectives. Not from the coaches’/mentors’ technical premises.

    Brando often irritated me, even from his early work – almost too consciously deliberate, though fascinating. Hope it’s not too “fangirl”, but RA seems to have absorbed the Method to a point at which it is completely natural, and not pushed onto viewer. ( Probably talkiing through my hat here – no expert!)

  8. PS, RAF, PROOF-READING on screen is my bugbear, as per above!! Drat!!

  9. Great diary entry. Leather accentuated the subtlety of RA performance as Guy and that added to his impact. Try and image in him regular medieval garb, it would have dimished the pure sexappeal greatly.

    The thing that enthralls me most about him in general is the reveal, when he shows the vulnerability of the character. It floors me each time.

  10. @iz4blue Wasn’t there one episode when he appeared in civvies when he was rescuing Marian from a carriage of some kind (early Season 2?). When I saw him I was a bit taken aback because he looked so good my heart gave a little leap! So in my opinion, the leather, though nice, was not a necessity.

  11. I’m glad some of you like these posts. I do enjoy writing them! :) They just take a little longer than my bs posts.

    @mesmered,

    It’s fascinating how he uses so many infinitesimal movements to convey something. That is what ensnared me originally.

    @fitzg,

    Brando can indeed be irritating to watch, but he also has a quality that was not seen much on screen before his time. That’s why I give him props, but I guess I’m a rabid fangurl because I agree with you about RA. Amazing.

  12. This is a beautiful post. It makes me wonder about the difference between reality and artifice in everyday life and the bridges between those two states, which Mr. Armitage seems to travel so effortlessly.


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