I started to call this post “A Little Hair of the Dog,” but I suppose for me this is “Day 3 FanstRAvaganza?” Yes, I’m behind on FanstRA, but do any of you care? I didn’t think so. LOL! Plus, there is so much to read on the blogs that I doubt anyone processed it all in one week. So I’m continuing on despite my interruption.
What I’m finding interesting about this last week is it’s becoming clear to me I’m at a place in my life where my ability to roll with the punches is imperative. This blog is certainly a reflection of it. Almost every post I had planned has now been turned on its head. Part of me hates this, but part of me gets a thrill from seeing how well I can bounce back. Now if I can figure out how to channel my zest in a way that’s not chaotic and doesn’t make some of you want to tear your hair out, I will, but I’m promising nothing. This is a significant statement from me as my life is filled with promises that I invariably keep or almost die trying. That’s as closely as I’m going to come to speaking of events this past week which temporarily scrambled my mind. Okay, enough of that. Onto more interesting matters.
As some of you know, I’m doing a series of posts about Richard Armitage’s voice work. Last week I started with The Voice. Hope you hang with me as I continue on with the subject.
Obviously, the deep tone of his voice is wonderful and many of us get a shiver listening to it. I’ve heard some say they could even listen to him reading the phone book. Not quite sure I would get much out of that. Maybe. Depends on how he would read it. There are plenty of other actors with deep, rich sounding voices that are pleasing to the ear. Alan Rickman is great, and Timothy Dalton has a beautiful voice, and oh so many others I could name, and I’m sure that Richard Armitage would do very well with just his natural voice. But the natural quality of the voice is simply not all there is to this fascination. In fact, if I had heard him only speaking as he does normally in interviews, I doubt I would have been this ensnared by it. No, this is something more. It is the way he intentionally uses it that’s so mesmerizing, and I don’t like to toss around words like mesmerizing unless I mean them.
Recently, I saw a picture of him where his luscious beard is gone, but contrary to what some think, that was never the significant wow factor in the Hobbit press conference. Granted, the beard was pretty overwhelming — almost with a life of its own. :D But it was not more compelling than his demeanor, which was mostly effected by his voice. He pulled a Harry! “I’m playing Thorin.” LOL! I think his voice dropped almost an octave when he said Thorin, and then he does it again when he says, “Would you like to be a little bit more specific?” I wish I could have seen the reporter’s face when he whipped that on her! It was like a snake charmer with his flute trying to cast a spell over something that might bite him.
This wasn’t the first time it occurred to me that he uses his voice as an instrument. In my initial watching of Robin Hood, I had the distinct feeling of his voice being played. There was something about the way he varied his pitch that almost had a musical quality and was certainly effective in manipulating me to emotions I never thought I could feel for the bad guy. I’m not one of those women who likes bad boys, so it was quite a shock when I was actually rooting for the evil henchman. LOL! When I first had this thought, I laughed to myself at being that far gone about a then very obscure British actor. Thankfully, I began to be vindicated as I listened to his first audio books for Robin Hood Series 1. (For more on Guy of Gisborne, see note below)
His mimicry in these books is great. I love how he conveys one character with a guttural tone and then turns around and gives another character a tinny, almost flat resonance, and every variation in between for a host of other characters. This did much to paint the picture of them with little or no dialogue or description. But I also had some idea of characters from watching the show and was never quite sure how much that affected the picture in my mind. It was listening to his reading of a Georgette Heyer novel, Sylvester, that I realized how very talented he is, and that’s saying something as I was never a fan of Regency Romance books. I tried to read them as a teen, but the potential sugar shock was too much. So it was with great reluctance that I listened to Sylvester. I’m so glad I did! His verbal rendering of the characters had me completely forgetting the book is Mary Sue on steroids. When I finished the first hearing of it, I had a grin on my face I couldn’t wipe away. For five hours I had been immersed in Regency England where I thoroughly fell in love with the characters and literally had to shake my head to bring myself back to the present. Of course I loved Sylvester and Phoebe, but it was the supporting cast that really made the piece for me. Tom was my favorite with Keighley and some others close behind.
The most wonderful part of listening to the book was afterward I could see Richard Armitage as a little boy with his ears cocked to listen to those around him and then using it to entertain his friends and family with storytelling. It brought such a warm feeling to think of it, and all at once I sensed a great kinship with and fondness for him. I couldn’t help it. I grew up with a mother who’s a performer and has a wonderful gift for it. I, on the other hand, never did, but I still adored storytelling and role playing and ended up with SO who has been storytelling and doing voices to entertain friends and family since he was very young. His children are just like him! My oldest child cannot be around someone for any length of time without picking up his/her speech patterns, and it’s eerie how truly she can nail someone’s speech. Her ear is so attuned to how someone speaks that she sometimes has to restrain herself from mimicking them. My other children do this as well, and I have been the recipient of many hours of entertainment because of it. It’s almost as if they have to express the things their ears are recording to get some relief. All of this ran through my head as I sat there basking in what I’d just heard, and I realized that I didn’t merely appreciate Richard Armitage as a great actor but as a wonderfully sensitive person –much more than I had originally thought. How else to account for someone who could so cleverly convey the feelings and thoughts of his characters with little or no speech, and now he had done it with only his voice?! Amazing.
As for his training, I don’t know if his ear for voices manifested as a child, but I suspect someone who has that keen an ear did not just develop it when he was grown. I also know that being a musician does not necessarily make someone a natural for voices. I am a musician, and I did not come naturally to an ear for spoken voices. Conversely, SO is not a musician, and he certainly has a keen ear for them. Maybe one day RA will tell us his experience, and if he already has and I missed it, well, I’m sure someone will let me know. LOL! Thankfully, some of my curiosity about his preparation was satisfied when I heard the interview for his second Heyer book, Venetia, about a year later:
I love that interview. It is one of my favorites. I was already anxious to listen to Venetia, but after listening to that, I could barely wait. Venetia is probably my favorite Heyer heroine of the three books RA read, and Damerel is wonderfully male. I was so glad I wasn’t driving when I got to chapters 12 and 13. :D I have also listened to The Convenient Marriage, and until recently, all three books were on my iPod as beloved traveling companions.
And whatever is the case with his training, the joy he takes in entertaining is evident and infectious.
If you have never had the pleasure of listening to any of RA’s Heyer audio books, or any of his audio books for that matter, or if you would just like to have your own copy of one of the books, I might be able to help. Until next Wednesday, March 30th, anyone who comments on this blog entry will be entered to win one of the Heyer audio books — your choice if you win. I plan to announce the winner on Friday, April 1st. I’ve never done a giveaway, so I hope this is a pleasant experience for all of us, but I do have a few rules. Don’t you love it! :D
Note: Guy of Gisborne is such an enigma that I’m refraining from much discussion of him in my series as he would completely take me off topic. Thankfully, other bloggers have chosen to write about him. Avalon at Avalon’s Medieval is covering a myriad of topics from the audio books to fan videos to fan fiction. Two other bloggers are actually fan fiction authors: Prue Batten at Mesmered’s Blog has written Gisborne and Sarah Pawley at From the Quill Tip has written The Tempest and My Lady Gisborne. Both share their stories on blog and Sarah also highlights some other fan fiction authors. I have read both Prue’s and Sarah’s works, and if you’re a Guy fan, you will not be disappointed. Even if you’re not a Guy fan, you probably won’t be disappointed. There are also some North and South fictions featured on Sarah’s blog.
Then there’s Judi at Confessions of a Watcher:
Judi is a fairly new fan and should be forgiven for not knowing every jot and tittle of fandom minutiae. We’ll give her a test later. :D I honestly didn’t snap to on the award for Robin Hood until right before I posted this, and I’ve been through hell trying to post, so I wasn’t going to wait, and I absolutely love her recording. But heck, I think the show should have won an award. If nothing else, RA should have won for making such a compelling character from that cardboard cut out baddie. But take pity on Judi as she’s still trying to work out her fascination for Guy of Gisborne. LOL! You can take the journey with her beginning here.