Tag Archives: Judit’s Crucible story

Judit’s ‘Crucible’ Odyssey Part Three: First Impressions of RA on Stage, Stage Door

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Our dearest Judit has returned with the third installment of her Crucible journey, having filled us in on getting prepared and picking the gifts for our beloved Mr. A in her earlier posts. Now to her candid impressions of that first performance (out of three attended) and feeling her own nervous jitters! Thank you, darling Judit, I know you’ve been both busy and fighting some health issues of your own. *hugs*

JUNE 27~AT LONG LAST . . .

The big day dawned and I wasn’t feeling well at all. I’d been having some tummy problems in the week leading up to my trip so I was still on a diet, and the fact that I was very nervous didn’t help matters at all.
Thankfully, I arranged to meet two Twitter friends, Armitagina and BatSpeaks who were also attending the play that evening. I met up with the ladies at around 5 p.m., we had a lovely chat at a pub near the Old Vic, and I even managed to eat a bit of pita bread with hummus!
We then had our picture taken by a kind passerby, here it is:
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(Armitagina, Bat Speaks and myself)

Now I normally hate pictures of myself, but this one is an exception! We all look very happy and excited.
This was the first viewing of the play for all three of us, and I hope the girls won’t mind me saying that when we entered the auditorium they were freaking out a bit and I was still somewhat in denial that I was going to see Richard perform live . . .


A Room with (Not Such a Great) View

We weren’t sitting together as we all purchased our tickets separately. The girls were sitting on the side of the stage facing the trap door, and I was sitting in 2nd row on the opposite side. As it turned out, 2nd row seats aren’t the best as they are on the same level as 1st row. Additionally, I had the misfortune of having a rather generously built lady with big and I mean BIG hair sitting right in front of me.

I had a lovely, friendly middle-aged couple sitting to the left (in spite of the Daily Mail reviewer trying to make out as if the audience were made up of 90 percent women – aka fangurls – all there to drool over RA, it wasn’t).

Right before the play started I remembered that I was a „woman on a mission”- I promised to get programmes for quite a number of friends around the world, so I decided I might as well start right then- I bought five programmes from one of the ushers standing by the stage. I felt that I needed to give the guy an explanation for getting so many copies, so I told him they were presents for friends. He just smiled and said „You’re going to have to read ALL of them!”

I returned to my seat trying to hold the programmes in such a way that nobody would notice I had so many, as I was afraid people might think I’m a lunatic. 😉

It was only the sixth performance in the run and back then the stage was set with a chair for each character and a pair of boots were placed in front of every character’s chair. Needless to say I instantly spotted which pair of boots belonged to Proctor. His chair was right in the middle of the round stage.

When the actors slowly walked in, I had the strangest of reactions–I almost didn’t dare to look up at Proctor/Richard! I thought if I did, my eyes were going to be glued only to him. Instead I just timidly glanced up at him every now and then. I remember feeling extremely anxious for him, in the silliest of ways–what if he forgets his lines, what if he falls over when he’s putting his boots on, and so forth.

I quite liked this „silent introduction” –the cast slowly walking to their chairs and putting their boots on. To paraphrase a friend on Twitter, it was as if by walking in barefoot and then putting on their shoes on stage, they sort of „stepped into character.” It was a lovely way to set the atmosphere. However, there had already been a lot of complaints from audience members about the running time of the play by then, so I can understand why this introduction was cut.

Too Tense to Take it All In?

I learned from my tennis fan days (oh those blessed late 90s!) that when you are watching a match featuring a player that you’re too emotionally invested in, you kind of lose your „spectator” status. You become too involved, which makes it almost impossible to stay impartial. You can’t just sit back and enjoy the performance. Something similar happened to me during that first viewing of The Crucible. I was holding onto my little backpack for dear life all the way through the first part, and didn’t even realize I was doing it until it was over!

Maybe it had to something to do with my overly tense and anxious state, or the restricted view from my seat, but I wasn’t really sure whether or not I really liked Richard’s performance in his first few scenes. I felt as if he was still somehow searching for the character’s „identity”. I saw an amalgamation of mainly Thorin, Thornton and even Guy but I didn’t feel like I really „met” Proctor until his first scene with Elizabeth.
Now He’s Got IT!

He was about to finish washing himself (by the way, all I could see was his back…) When his wife walked in and then he said his first line („I were planting far out to the forest edge” ) very quietly, and he sounded so…natural. He really did sound like a bone-weary, tired man talking to his wife. Up to that point I felt he was a bit „declamatory”,a bit too forceful, putting unnecessary stress/emphasis on too many words. But at that moment, I thought „That’s IT! Finally. There is Proctor.” From that point onwards, his performance was getting better and better.

I have two overwhelming memories from that first night: funnily enough, the first is the smell of Elizabeth’s „rabbit” stew lingering in the air all the way through the second part of the play. I loved the fact that they actually had real food on stage–-it added a touch of realism. I didn’t know at the time that all the confessions, warrants and so forth are properly written too–had I known, I might have tried to grab a piece of one of those!
Second, I remember a feeling of deep frustration as a result of sitting on the „less favoured” side of the stage. I haven’t seen a play in this kind of setting before and it certainly has many advantages as people have pointed out. However, there are some definite drawbacks to this configuration as well.

I had the impression that the side facing the trap door was heavily favoured which meant that in the majority of the key scenes Richard had his back to me, and I was almost screaming internally „ I want to see his FAAACE!!” When I met Armitagina and BatSpeaks during the interval they were full to the brim with enthusiasm about the performance and I wished I could have shared that feeling but instead I was thinking, „Yeah, it’s all great but NOW I WANT TO SEE THE OTHER HALF of the story!!!”

Learning as a Stage Door Newbie

Stage door that night: as a SD „newbie” I wasn’t aware of the side exit that offers you a sort of short-cut to the stage door, so I left the building through the main exit. That meant that by the time I reached the queue, it was already quite long. Luckily my two companions had secured a spot in the front of the queue so I was able to join them.

Sadly, BatSpeaks had to leave early due to a prior engagement, so only Armitagina and I remained. Eventually, Richard came out and I had yet another inexplicable reaction–I was overcome with shyness and so I couldn’t make myself look at him properly. I sort of stole half-glances in his direction again. He signed Armitagina’s copy of The Crucible (said, „Oh you have the book, well done!”).

I gave him the letter from one of my Italian twitter friends and fellow RA fan, explaining that a friend of mine asked me to hand this to him. He seemed really pleased and even surprised by it (as in, “Someone has written me a letter??” And „Wow, this one here didn’t want me to sign anything!”), thanked me profusely and put the letter in a gift bag that the darling security guy was holding for him. Then he proceeded to put his arm around us for a photo (one of the ladies behind us in the queue was kind enough to offer to take a picture)–but it didn’t come out, unfortunately. 😦

All the way through this short encounter I felt that Richard was present in body, but not in spirit. He was perfectly friendly and his soulful, kind, warm voice melted my insides, but I still felt as he was miles away. Also, I was surprised by how small he seemed at SD compared to how huge he looked on that relatively small stage in Act One. However, Proctor completely „shrinks” as if his legs are about to buckle under the weight they have to carry, his shoulders becoming hunched towards the end of the play. RA still had this „broken man” posture going on at the stage door.

While I felt he was moving on autopilot, he really did take his time with everybody at the stage door that evening. For starters, he was staying put in one spot under the yellow SD light and people in the queue were coming up to him as opposed to him racing down the line. I suppose he was still working out his „Stage dooring” method at the time!

To be continued . . . two more performances to enjoy!

Part 2 of Judit’s ‘Crucible’ Oddysey: Prepping, Pressies and a Study in Contrast

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The eagerly awaited second part of Hungarian RA fan Judit’s “Crucible” experience is here! Not only did Judit get to see RA perform in the role of John Proctor three times at the Old Vic, she also had the opportunity to see the play staged this spring in her native Hungary, providing us with a study in contrasts between the two productions.  We also get to vicariously enjoy the fun of picking out presents for our favorite fella, who spent considerable time in Judit’s “stomping grounds” of Budapest! Read on, enjoy and comment. And thanks once again, Judit.

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Theatre tickets, flights and accommodation booked – yet I was still a bit like Geraldine in VOD when Harry asks her to dinner. “OMG, only FIVE hours to get ready” (only in my case, it was “OMG. only two-and-a-half months to get ready!”).

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PREPARATION!

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First things first. I had to get my hands on the original English version of the play. I do have the Hungarian translation, but I wanted to read it as it was written. So I ordered an inexpensive used copy from Amazon. And it turned out to be the same edition as the one Richard was working from during rehearsal! How I squeed when I saw “my” book in those huge hands!

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RA script

A coincidence, which turned out to be part of my “preparation process,” was the chance to see a guest performance of “The Crucible” at the National Theatre in Budapest on 30th April. Having never been to our National Theatre (it’s a relatively new building), I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I thought it would be interesting to see another staging and have something to which I could compare the Old Vic’s version ( I had not yet read the play when I saw the version at the National Theatre).

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From the Hungarian National Theatre production of The Crucible, courtesy of Judit.

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A huge difference straight away was the traditional staging of the Hungarian version.  As it turned out, the script was also  cut compared to the Old Vic’s. production–the performance in Hungary was 40 minutes shorter.  The costumes were a mixture of different eras–perhaps to emphasize the story’s timelessness? I am not sure. They also “sexed up” the play a bit in some of the scenes with John and Abigail, and John and Elizabeth. There was one particularly gruesome torture scene involving Tituba. Elizabeth Proctor recited the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the play–which certainly was not in the original script, nor did I quite see the point of it.

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In terms of performances, I thought the Hungarian cast was really strong all around–except for the actor who played John Proctor. He just didn’t have the stage presence or the charisma to make me take him or his plight seriously.I am afraid the Hungarian version of Proctor had all the charisma of a wet sock, and was definitely the weakest link in that cast. In fact, I thought that the real protagonists of the play were the Reverend Hale and Elizabeth, not Proctor! It was hard for me to figure out what made Richard want to play that character . . .

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 Anyway, my favourite performance of the evening came from the actor (who incidentally, looks like he could be William Gaunt’s long-lost twin brother) playing Giles Corey. I think Giles is one of the most relatable characters and he brings much-needed comic relief to the proceedings.

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PRESSIES!

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I’d decided very early on that I was going to bring RA some presents – something to remind him of Hungary, since he’d spent almost two years here shooting the three series of Robin Hood.

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I figured that since most people in the queue at the stage door are there to get something FROM him (i.e. autographs, photos, etc.) he might appreciate it if someone wanted to GIVE him something for a change.

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Since Hungary is a bit of a wine country (not as renowned as say, France, but we do have some 22 wine regions in our tiny little country) and RA is a wine connoisseur, a bottle of wine was an obvious choice.

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http://www.decanter.com/dwwa/dwwa-coverage/584305/dwwa-2013-international-trophies-red-bordeaux-varietal-over-15

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I decided to go with a wine that was lesser known, but at the same time, internationally recognized. I ended up with a 2011 Cuvée.

Chocolates were another obvious choice. I wanted to get him something that you can’t really get outside of Hungary.

So, I ended up with this:

chocolates for RA

It’s a marzipan praliné with alcoholic cherry filling– very. very nice, indeed! I particularly liked the box because it features an image of our most beautiful bridge, the Chain Bridge (Lánchíd), which was designed by an English architect, Adam Clark, in the mid-19th century.

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I had to test it, of course, because I didn’t want to give our man something that was less than top quality!

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What else could I add to my RA gift list?

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My young sister-in-RA, Brigitta and her family make their own EXQUISITE strawberry jam every year from fresh Hungarian strawberries.

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This year they were kind enough to make a batch for me. The idea came to me that I should bring Richard a jar of it. Brigitta was very sad that she couldn’t come to the UK and see the play with me, so I thought this way she could be part of the experience.

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Of course, I wanted to put a nice label on the jar. However, I’m the world’s least creative person and have never designed anything in my life before.

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Luckily I found a website (www.jamlabelizer.com) that allows you to design your own personalized jam label and so I ended up with this:

sir guy jame

 I really do wish I could have come up with something a LOT wittier and funnier, but I was pushing the boundaries of my creativity as it was.

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Since I wanted a label with some kind of reference to the time RA spent in Hungary, Sir Guy seemed the perfect choice!

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(Brigitta insisted that I put my name on the label, even though I had nothing to do with the preparation of the jam itself. She said she would refuse to give me permission to even give the jar to Richard unless my name was on the label. What could I do but give in?)

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I also wanted to write him a letter.  I started writing it in my head from the day we booked the tickets,  actually. But none of those thoughts ever saw the light of day in the end. That’s probably the only regret I have about the whole experience: I wish I’d have been brave enough to write that letter–or at the very least, a card!

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So, here they are, jam and bottle of wine –safely delivered to London on the 26th June!!!

wine and jam

Coming up: Part 3 Viewing The Crucible (Three Times!) and The Stage Door Experience with RA! Stay tuned . . .

Part 1 of Judit’s “Crucible” Odyssey: A Hungarian RA Fan ‘Seizes the Day’

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Part 1 of Judit’s “Crucible” Odyssey: A Hungarian RA Fan ‘Seizes the Day’

Dear friend Judit, aka the Hungarian Honey, was lucky enough to not only see RA perform live as John Proctor in “The Crucible”–she saw him three times, and once from the front row!  Now that she has pretty much regained her equilibrium after meeting HIM she is sharing her experience with us here at TAE in installments.  Now, Part I of Judit’s own “Crucible” story . . . with lots more to come!  Thank you, Judit, for dishing all about your experiences with us. You rock!

 

I know RA had talked about going back to theatre often, but when he moved to NYC I had given up hope that it would happen (yeah, my usual optimistic self taking charge again!), and I thought if it were to happen it would happen on Broadway…

So, I was very sceptical when the rumour first surfaced about him being in talks to star in a play in LONDON!  Especially as the source was the Daily Mail and we all know how reliable they normally are.

 

In any case, a few days after I first read about the rumour, I joined the Old Vic’s “friends” circle (there’s a yearly membership fee in exchange for which you get a tiny discount from ticket prices, you don’t get charged booking fee when booking online, plus you get newsletters and, as it turned out, I also got a Crucible flyer in the post some weeks later). I thought, “I had better be prepared IF the rumours indeed turn out to be true!”

 

And then…all of a sudden there it was–a confirmation of Richard being cast as John Proctor on the Old Vic’s website! Needless to say, the Armitage Army “fell upon the online booking system of the Old Vic like an ocean” (to paraphrase John Proctor!).

 

 

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For the first time ever in my life, I found myself in a virtual/online queue!! I think I was about 300th when I first logged into my account and clicked on ’book a ticket’. Luckily, I had someone to share the excitement with – I phoned Helen in London, so we basically “queued” together, she in London and I in Budapest, watching our respective numbers go down to zero.. There was an awful lot of OMG-ing and exclamations along the lines of “can you believe this is happening??” (all this was made more awkward by the fact that I was at work, and this whole scene was witnessed by our accountant and a student who was doing her work experience with us – good job neither of them speak English!).

Helen and myself decided to go for an early date in the run, as we were afraid that RA might miss some dates later on in the run due to Comic Con in July or ITS premiere in August…

And, we were very lucky to score first row tickets for the 30th June…!

Later on, when I booked my flight tickets to London, I was more and more tempted by the idea that if I was going to spend five days in London, why not go for more than just one performance??

In the end I just couldn’t resist;  I booked a ticket for 27th June and then, yet another for the evening performance of the 28th..

I know it sounds excessive but I was thinking, who knows if I’ll ever have the chance to see RA perform live on stage again?? Why not make the most of my time in London??

Yes, of course he might do another play in a few years’ time- but who knows where I will be then? Whether I’ll still have a job by then? And my health?

 

So I decided to just seize the day–and I went for it!!! Boy am I glad that I did!!!

 

Next chapter:  preparations!  (coming up soon!)