As with the other days, please remember this is part of a much larger conversation about Richard Armitage, and you would be pleased by checking out the rest of it here.
My apologies for the delay in posting, and no, today is not about Richard Armitage and Peter Jackson. It was supposed to be today, but I’m a day behind. Sometime I might tell you why.
This piece was originally titled ‘I Think Therefore I Am a Great Actor II,’ but my need for cuteness has waned, and in its place is an overwhelming desire to be understood. The need is so great that it’s also contributed to this post being tardy, and I began drafting it a couple of months ago! Actually, the post has been brewing from the day I started this blog. No, before that.
I knew fairly early on what overwhelmed me about RA’s portrayals, but the language to explain it has eluded me; otherwise, I would have explained already. My stumbling block is not in finding some words so much as it is in wishing to use words that have no inflammatory nature. If my ability to handle words were better, then I could deal with the dangerous ones while curtailing the seemingly endless qualifiers.
In case it wasn’t obvious in the last post, the drug I keep taking is the reality created by Richard Armitage’s characters. I would say truth, but people trip on the word truth. Maybe because it’s often assumed to be the sum of all truth instead of just a truth. That does seem to be the inference from a significant number of people when the word appears. And perhaps it is such an important aspect of our lives, it rightly deserves that reaction. To be clear, I do have a definite view of the source of the truth, but it has such a richness and depth, I could never sum it up. It’s not that simple.
And people aren’t simple. It doesn’t matter who. Everyone has myriad emotions for myriad reasons with myriad manifestations of them. For another person to portray this authentically, and I don’t necessarily mean realistically but rather a portrayal that gets to the heart of a person, certainly can’t be simple. It requires what Stanislavski called “the magic if” which is an actor accessing his imagination to give a character thoughts and feelings, and in turn mannerisms and personal habits in order to convey the inner man. When I first heard Richard Armitage wrote back stories for his characters, I wondered if he was a devotee’ of Stanislavski’s method, but it wasn’t until I read the Vulpes Libris interview in July 2009, that I was sure. Oh, what a wonderful piece. For all of the supposed intellectual resources of the major media outlets, an interview on a fairly unknown blog remains my favorite, because he shared in more detail, before or since, how his mind works with respect to his craft. Thank you again, Lovely Book Foxes! I think many of us would love to read those diaries. Maybe one day.
From that interview, something else began to be clear. This tapping into the imagination and using it to make a real point of connection is Richard Armitage’s obsession, and thankfully for us, his genius. When I was reading Craig, he made an illustration of a young man wanting to become an actor and how it wasn’t really about wanting to be an actor but something else:
Perhaps you quarrelled with your parents when you were eighteen, because you wished to go on the stage, and they would not let you. They perhaps asked why you wanted to go on the stage, and you could give no reasonable answer because you wanted to do that which no reasonable answer could explain; in other words, you wanted to fly. And had you said to your parents, “I want to fly,” I think that you would have probably got further than had you alarmed them with the terrible words, “I want to go on the stage.
Millions of such men have had the same desire, this desire for movement, this desire to fly, this desire to be merged in some other creature’s being, and not knowing that it was the desire to live in the imagination, some have answered their parents, “I want to be an actor; I want to go on the stage. — Edward Gordon Craig, from On the Art of the Theatre
I saw Richard Armitage in that. Oh, not the quarrel although there could have been a quarrel, but in the desire to merge with another creature’s being. And it occurred to me that for all its appearances, this is not flying:
The heart of these characters was never revealed in any way that was terribly meaningful to me. The entire time I was watching I felt like an outsider who didn’t understand the intense relationship between these two people but was aware on some level of the writers whispering into my ear, “This is the scene where you should care.” But oh, what do you think this part would have been in the hands of Richard? And I’ll bet Kate Winslet’s performance would have been world’s better as well. I could get faint if I think about all the possibilities, and especially as I’ve been learning what flying really looks like:
It’s made me want to fly too. It’s made me want to tell stories and express some things I never have or felt I could. A few months before I knew RA existed, I did start a journal, which was something to relieve tension and rant where it could do no harm to anyone — except perhaps me. It was never for me to be a writer. But as I watched his performances, I got so stirred up and eventually knew I wanted to do in written form what he is doing. Mostly, I want to create another world in which to reveal a reality. Isn’t that what Tolkien is all about? More on that later. :D
The next post is about Richard Armitage stretching himself professionally.