The Crucible Previews – Whose Opinion Matters?

crucibleAlong with the rest of ArmitageWorld, I’ve been tracking the opening preview reviews coming in from blogs, Tumblr and Twitter.  Naturally I focused on Richard Armitage as the touted star of the production.  How did he do?  Does he have the chops to be a headliner?  Responses ranged from “brilliant,” “outstanding,” and “[left me] crying and shivering,” to well – underwhelmed.  A tweeter stated that as a lead, RA was “weak.”  The former reaction didn’t surprise me; the later responses have me a little concerned.   Was it an accident that the superlatives poured from fans who have a vested interest in seeing their man succeed; and the not so glowing comments issued from those who simply viewed RA as part of the ensemble?  If so, what would the critics say on press night?  Or does it really matter who says what?

Fan-wise, it might not make any difference.  Fans are delighted merely to see him in the flesh (no pun intended) and onstage in a quality production.  What could be better than that?  Looking through adoring eyes, they would be more likely to praise his strong points and forgive the weaker aspects of his performance. Then based on some reviews I’ve read, there is the problem of some fans not fully comprehending the play.  If they don’t understand the basis, how can they objectively judge the performance?    I’m not saying all fans have that difficulty or would deliberate skewer opinion in his favor no matter what, but there is an element of loyal blindness.   Does any of this matter?  They’d encourage their friends and family to see it too because it’s Richard -freaking-Armitage, right?

What about the opinion of the Old Vic?  Here is a man with star power who can put bums in the seats. Financially speaking, it doesn’t matter if RA proves stellar or only competent – he has a sizable fanbase willing to buy tickets more costly than other East End productions.  Although certain critics have decried using “popular television actors” to feel the theaters, the truth is live theater is a costly and competitive business – directors will do whatever it takes to fill the seats and keep their enterprises afloat – as long was critics don’t deem their lead actors box office poison.

But what about the critics’ opinions I’m keen to know?  These are people well versed in the artistic side of the theater and supposedly know a good production from a bad one potential goers should skip, thus affecting ticket sales and ultimately the possible closing of the show? Should they have that sort of power?  A case in point: a famous British theater  upon learning David Tennant had been cast as Hamlet essentially stated that the trend of theater directors hiring “TV actors” for productions was harming the artistic integrity of theater by lowering standards. The ignorant critic only knew DT from Doctor Who and was unaware of his previous acclaimed career in the RSC.  This snooty rant ultimately made the critic look bad, but imagine the sway he perceived himself as having by implying that non-theater actors had no use on stage besides being a box office pull and readers listened.  And yet, it’s the professional critics’ opinions directors and the theater-going public notice.  The directors crave acclaim for their productions; the public loathes wasting money on anything less than praiseworthy.  I admit wanting to see shows both popular and highly acclaimed, and really hope this is true for The Crucible.

But what if opinions diverge? What if the fans rave and the critics boo?  What if the latter say the cast is brilliant but the lead is not?  Would it matter to Old Vic if they are interested in more than the bottom dollar?  Would it matter to directors looking to cast other leads?  Should it matter?

And would it matter to Richard Armitage to be a popular or artistic success or both, and would it effect his ability to be cast in other productions?

When I began this post, I thought the answer would be that opinion shouldn’t matter as long as the audience and the producers get what they want.  Then I had to ask myself whether I’d travel thousands of miles to see a “popular” but not acclaimed actor in a play.  The answer is I’m torn.  On one hand, I’d love to see RA perform onstage; on the other, I want to see something considered more than competent. Tickets are expensive.  I want to see a prime specimen of outstanding theater. I want to be transported, so I can say years from now “oh yes, I saw him when he first returned to the stage in The Crucible.”  I want to be seriously impressed.  So I suppose professional criticism matters to me, even more than popular opinion.  Some may say there’s an aspect of elitism in there, but it’s my honest view.

What do you think?  Are you swayed by fan opinion or holding out for press night?



90 thoughts on “The Crucible Previews – Whose Opinion Matters?

  1. I think I’m not gonna see it so it doesn’t matter what I think, LOL. Not everyone gets the “same thing” out of any production. I bet the best way to know if it’s “worth it” is to do it and see what you think afterwards. It’s too bad they aren’t streaming it like was done with T.Hiddy in Coriolanus, so then you could stay local and judge for yourself.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t feel so conflicted if there were a DVD, or something like that for The Crucible. I guess it comes down to economics for many people like me. Is it worth it, and how do you judge before hand? I guess you can’t, really.

      • I had that same dilemma before the Pinter/Proust reading. Since it was “just” a reading, I was wondering do I really want to spend hundreds of dollars just to see RA sit on a stage reading lines? (I had no idea what I was in for haha!) At the time 92Y didn’t say anything about a meet and greet and I didn’t know if there’d be a type of stage door for such a thing. I deemed it to be worth it and then 92y said there would be a meet and greet (and you know what happened there 😉 ) But with this, I see what you mean, it’s a HUGE amount of money for one evening. I saw somewhere that you already have a ticket? Do you have plane and hotel as well? Also, I agree with you, what will he be like by the end of the run? It’s an emotionally and physically exhausting show 8 times a week for about 12 weeks. I’m sure he’ll deliver a great performance straight through. but he is human. Sorry not helping with your conundrum 🙂

        • I bought front row tickets for two evenings in September. No fare or hotel booked yet as finances are a bit strained right now. But I got the tickets because I knew I’d be upset if things resolved and then I couldn’t get tickets. If I can’t go, I will have made a donation to The Cause. 😉

          IIRC, RA said he prides himself on having stamina. I hope that will still be the case if I get there.

          • Oh! Good luck 🙂 I hope you can make it. With the sheer amount of physicality and emotion this play seems to have, I would be looking forward to Sundays lol! (they have off on Sunday) Drop in a warm bath then bed and not move till I was needed on Monday.
            But RA loves to push himself, I just hope the strain doesn’t make him ill. I feel like he will make it straight through, strong.

          • It’s also a point to make: for better or for worse, the play that people (fans or critics) are seeing now is not quite the one that they will see on press night nor is it the one that people will see at the end of the run.

  2. I think they both matter to me, I suppose because I assume that they both matter to him, too. As a fan, I’m likely to be satisfied unless the performance is really poor, but I can also separate them from my critical judgment of something. (“I liked x, but I acknowledge that on the basis of broader criteria than my subjective enjoyment, it’s lacking.”) As a thinker/ponderer, I don’t need a critic to form my opinion for me — I have plenty of that capacity myself and even the cultural basis for doing so — but what I appreciate in a useful critic’s review is pointing out things that I don’t see or notice because I’m not aware I should be looking. So if a critic points something out and I think, hmmm, I never considered that — well, that would be important to me. Also and however, I assume that on some level an artist cares about what fellow artists and experts think about his work, and that Richard Armitage would care at least somewhat what the reviews will say (apart from the bottom line), although he has repeatedly said things that suggest that audience enjoyment is important to him in what he’s doing. I hope that critics’ reactions are not all he cares about, but I assume they will play a role, especially because as far as I know he’s never had a review from a professional theater reviewer. He started his career in classical theater; he seems to take his work seriously; and I imagine no one with that sort of ambition wants to be hired because his employers and fellow artists in any production respect and enjoy his work.

    Great post.

    • I agree with you. A critic can say what miss or fail to notice. My wavering and expectations would be less had the play been local than if I had to travel across the pond to see it. So a critic’s opinion might sway me less. I do wonder how much such opinions would sway others in a position to hire RA for future productions. Is popularity good enough, or do they look for something more? I recall your post mentioning classism in theater and I wonder if that would effect him too.

  3. Pingback: Do you care what the professional critics will say about Armitage’s performance? | Me + Richard Armitage

  4. Oh, regarding bums in seats — I read somewhere recently that the average occupancy rate of theaters in the West End at present on any given night is running around 72 percent. I think as long as they beat that, they’ll be okay. Looking at everything I’ve been able to see, there has been a lot of praise for the production itself, and a lot of people are coming to the theater for that. I suppose that raises another sense in which the reviews are important, because the theater can’t solely be populated with fans.

    • 72%? I wonder if that is a good percentage or not. I heard in recent years, producers are dying for the public to fill the theaters in view of the high prices of some shows. The prices do give one pause.

      Good point about needing more than fans to populate the theater. Forgot that aspect.

      • Someone made the point to me that the Old Vic is *huge* in comparison to some other venues. (I don’t know and I don’t feel like looking it up.) I imagine DT could fill it up only with Doctor Who fans but I don’t think Armitage is at that level just yet (and will be maybe never be, and I am indifferent to the answer to that question). In a way, that’s nice for him — he gets some / many reactions that are not coming from “us”.

        • The Old Vic has a seating capacity of 1,067 which is on the larger side – and certainly huge when compared to other venues like critical darling ‘The Almeida’ – which only seats 325 – or the ‘Young Vic’ – which lists 550 seats.

          It runs on the scale of The Olivier Theatre @ the National Theatre (1,160) and the Prince of Wales Theatre – host to the Book of Mormon – and about 1,200 seats. I think it won’t be easy to sell out the house – although Spacey certainly did so recently with his swan song 3 week run as Clarence Darrow. 😉

          I’ve just looked up the Globe Theatre in London and it lists an incredible 3,000 capacity! Can this be possibly be right?? One of my finest London theatre experiences to date was there:

          I cannot believe it was sold out with a capacity of 3,000 – although it was without a doubt an absolutely sublime experience from the moment Mark Rylance appeared.

          Judi – I wonder if this is the kind of review you are hoping to read in order to justify the significant expense of attending? Strong ensemble cast – but even amongst the strong – Armitage is still the undisputed king?? Am I close?

          Oh and btw – two weeks ago, Mark Rylance was awarded the Tony for this same role in its Broadway run. Check out his classiest of classy acceptance speech and its synchronous referral to McCarthyism:

          • Sadly I was in the wilds of Ohio and missed the Tony’s. Always pictured Rylance as much older.

            “Strong ensemble cast – but even amongst the strong – Armitage is still the undisputed king??” Am I close?”

            Erm…maaaaaaaybe. 😀 Seriously, I just want to read that he didn’t fall on face and performed strongly as a headliner. I’m not looking for him to be Rylance or the next Olivier.

            • Whew!! Well, in that case, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed – the play itself has received consistently high marks from early previewers. As long as you aren’t expecting him to be Olivier or Ryland in his debut return, I think it’s safe to say he’s already on his way to a solid run as head-liner, even if he may not always ‘steal the show’. 🙂

  5. I’m kind of torn. While I’ve really enjoyed reading fan accounts, I know that we, in general, tend not to be exactly unbiased viewers. On the other hand, you point to something that I find troubling…are there unbiased professional theater critics? What I mean us, given the recent trend of snip with regard to screen (big or little) actors appearing in stage productions, can Richard Armitage, as a primarily screen actor in an ensemble cast of primarily stage actors, get a fair review, or will bias come I with the critic? I really can’t answer that question, but I tend to prefer to make my own judgements about performances…I’ve had the experience of wondering if I was in the same theater as the reviewer because our perceptions of the success of this or that performance were so different.

    My two cents only 🙂

    • Fan accounts are great but they are likely to be biased. I’m sure the cast appreciates the fact that most fans loved the play but it does matter what the critics say. For an actor it is important whether it is good or bad but it will also matter how many see the play and the one way, among others, that you get people to the theater is writing it up in the paper or online as a professional critic. Now I don’t decide how to see a movie by what a critic says and I think many theater goers might feel the same but given the number of plays and musicals to be seen on stage decisions have to be made due to cost or availability date wise. We love Richard so that draws us but remember Richard is well known in England for many things and that means he will draw other people who might just enjoy his acting alone.

    • Then there’s the whole thing about theater critics in England, who are known to be withering at times, especially in comparison to their US counterparts. Where criticism is seen as an art in itself, hyperbole is often treasured as humorous.

      • That’s the part that concerns me a bit, critics like DT’s who enjoy digging into returned actors like RA. Hopefully these will be few and far between.

        • I suspect that that remark didn’t really hurt DT, though — precisely because it was wrong. A really scorching rip of a review can also make people go to the theater.

          • That’s true! Something being called out as completely horrible and ridiculous makes people queue up like mad!!!

          • I think that people pay more attention (at least stateside) to fan ratings / reviews (if they are thoughtful) than to critics…. sometimes even considered a badge of honor if critics don’t care for it. But I’m truthfully not familiar with attitudes toward reviews by theater critics, either here OR in England. Are they widely considered to have power to stop a play in its tracks? Or perhaps certain ones in particular? If not, only a couple of negatives should just get added to the “screwups as in DT” file.

            I also agree that critics probably matter to RA …. he mentions having started in theater fairly often, and for a good while has indicated desire to return to the stage. I’m betting that part of that reason is proving he still has the chops to more than just his “diehards”.

            • I don’t know that they would stop a play in its tracks — but there are reviewers whose opinions are really respected, and particularly for the “people in the know” those opinions are important.

              I was thinking, reading descriptions of other actors leaving the theater and getting little / no acknowledgement from the crowd while there’s a long line of Armitage fans waiting for an autograph, that that kind of makes concrete some of the problems. If he’s great in the role and acknowledged to be great, that’s one thing, then it seems like all that attention is merited. If not, then there’s the “well, it’s just the fans, they love him no matter what.” It’s great to be loved and I firmly believe Armitage is grateful for fan support, but it’s also important to know for oneself that what one does is good. A lot of that comes from inside but some inevitably comes from outside, as well.

              • Interesting point about other actors being acknowledged after the performance… as I don’t know anything about this, is the “stage door” deal normally just for the headliners, or all the cast? And since all the publicity upfront involved Richard almost exclusively, except the rehearsal stills last week, won’t some of the other standouts – like Samantha, apparently – start getting more press exposure? Which might change the attention they too start to receive…. or it should.
                Totally agree with your last couple sentences too – I love when my mom tells me I am beautiful or did a wonderful job, but she is, of course, my mom (though never to be taken for granted). I’m sure Richard craves that expert validation through critical review – and while it won’t be uniform reaction, I can’t believe that he won’t find it, just based on the apparent sheer emotional power of the production. Only one person has actually called him weak, without stating why, so who knows – but he’s never been known as a weak link and no way he’ll start now.

                • Everyone who wants to greet theatergoers leaves by the stage door — so theoretically fans of the others actors could be there as well. I don’t know a lot about the rest of the cast, except that many of the ensemble / young female roles are being played by newcomers. I assume that to some extent one casts on what budget one can afford for personnel, so some of that is probably based on “who came cheap.” The actors playing the roles of the older characters do have longer CVs and reputations, but I haven’t investigated any of them yet so don’t know whether they’d have fans lining up to meet them.

              • I agree with your point. Like any working actor, he would crave validation from really respected reviewers and other professionals. There’s good to have faith in one’s self, but to have that is a real shot in the arm.

    • Obscura, that’s a good point. I’m not familiar with UK critics so I don’t know what colors their perceptions. Are they more elitist and protective of their industry? It’s hard to tell. I do detect a touch more snobbishness than with US critics.

  6. I think I personally will take some of it to heart and hurt for and with him if reviews are bad. (which I doubt they will be) I think fans always will put a rosy gloss over their favorite actors performance. (not to say his was bad) People like different things and are entertained in different ways, hence the “weak” criticism vs the glowing reports from the RArmy. The RArmy knows what they’re in for and yet they’re still shocked at how great he is. The person with the “weak” criticism (possibly) only knew RA from the Crucible promos and saw this land squarely on RA’s shoulders and was let down. The Old Vic is a highly respected mecca for theatrical arts and maybe his personal standards were too high.
    If Richard gets mixed reviews from the press that’s (sadly) normal. The negative reviews will surely break my heart as I love and respect RA as an actor. They’ll probably hurt him too but drive him on to make himself better. He seems like the type to always want to improve himself. So if the press says there’s something that’s lacking, he’ll see it as incentive to work harder. I don’t know if he would/could change something but he’d probably give it some thought.
    I’d love for him to get all positive reviews but realistically I’m shooting for mixed with a tip towards positive 🙂

    • I’m hoping for the same thing Grace, I’d hate for him to get critically panned, and I really can’t see that happening with so many people liking his performance.

  7. I’m certainly hoping the reviews come out mostly good. It would be great to have an acclaimed theatrical lead on his CV so that presumably more role offers in the future would follow.
    I’m not sure what would constitute a failed or lackluster performance. If the audience is riveted, I think you’ve largely succeeded in regard to the masses. (And positive tweeters seemed to feel the viewers around them were engrossed in the show.) If critics can dissuade people from going based on their expert opinion, that would be unfortunate, because I truly can’t imagine the play to be so poorly executed that it would be better not to attend.
    If the reviews are mixed, that still gives many potential theater-goers a reason to go and decide for themselves.
    I’m very interested to see if Richard will be more lauded than criticized.

    • It would be interesting to see what RA does now. He has a week to modify/change his game before press time. Also what the character is like by the end of the run. I have tickets for September, so I’m on tenterhooks.

      • A thought provoking post! And interesting discussions!

        I would also choose September tickets because the whole cast will have matured into their roles. That and, the temperature should be cooler for the non air conditioned theatre. Ha! And with the run ending in September, the cast might have an even greater incentive to go out in a blaze of glory with even more amazing performances.

        I’m trying to avoid the obvious sports metaphors–like hitting one out of the ballpark and such–but with the World Cup going on right now, it’s inevitable. Except, I’m not all that familiar with soccer rules and conventions. Ha! But I’m hoping that Richard Armitage scores a “goal” with his portrayal of John Proctor in The Crucible.

        Besides, for The Crucible performances on opening previews night last Saturday to receive a standing ovation–we saw the pictures–more than just RA Fans had to have deemed it worthy. Surely RA’s Fans didn’t “pack the house”, completely. Ha!

        But we’ll see what the “critics” have to say–thoughtful, educated, constructive, or just plain mean spirited. Sighhh! I’m guessing that Mr. Armitage will take things in stride as the mature professional actor he is.

        • Very pleased for you, Gratiana! And Sept. is just right, for the play, and probably not major hot London weather (It can be hot. And humid). And for the cast to settle. Post your review!

        • That’s what I’m banking on, that the production will have fully matured and go out in a blaze of glory. I wonder if it’s difficulty maintaining the passion and enthusiasm in a role when you feel like you’re limping towards the end. Three months is a long time for four hour play.

  8. From what I read, I found only one comment that was negative and read only about three accounts that were what I would consider substantive – showed an understanding of the play, at least in broad strokes and applied that to what they wrote. In all three cases, there might be four) the writers ( or speakers) did not know the play before, so they had no preconceived notions, lessons, etc., and in one case, the answers were a Q & A, but with comments from the questioner, so hard for me to tell exactly where the theater goer was coming from. It was a little bit more like another lesson. For me, I’m interested in what everyone says at this point in order to learn more about this production and how Armitage was received- and to know it’s not a bomb. And since I’m grateful to all those fans who have and will share their experiences, I don’t want to analyze their work too closely.
    But what counts, is what the critics say, unless he fills the seats regardless. And even then, from my point of view as a real fan, I want Armitage especially, and the production in general to get great reviews. Fan appreciation here is not enough, in my opinion. Nothing I’ve done, felt, written, worried about in the past year about his work and his career – his trajectory, is compatible with the notion that as long as we like him, it’s OK – for one reason, I don’t think it would be Ok for him. I think he wants to , has been working hard to, achieve a wider reach.
    I differ from you in this instance though – if given the chance, I would see go to London to see him in this play no matter what the critics say. I feel that something is going to be missing in my “library” if I miss a performance of his.

    • Ah, but see you’re a completist. I’ve not seen everything he’s done. Bad fangurl, I know. 😉

      I agree that critical acclaim would be important to RA. He’s as ambitious as any actor and I’m sure he wants to known as an excellent versatile actor.

      • I think ALL reactions matter. “Fans” can promote ticket-buying. Media critics are just as influential to an actor career. The lover of theatre might express publicly opinion less, but “Letters to the Editor…” the newspapers have some influence, too.

  9. I have to say that I care for Richard’s sake and for my own. Richard will want good reviews, so I want them for him too. He will want the opportunity to do more stage work in the future and he has a burning drive to succeed in his chosen field, and good reviews will be important for both of those ambitions. For myself, I would like my faith in him as an actor vindicated, and while I love the good response from fans, they are not objective, as has already been mentioned, so I am anxious to hear what reviewers, in general, have to say. [There will be negative reviews, of course. Sometimes I think reviewers are negative just to prove they are more educated, discerning, and intelligent than the rest of us.]

    I also want the play to be wildly successful with the theatre-going public, of course. Personally, I am way more interested in their opinion of the play because I feel they are more likely to be looking for the same things I am in a production.

    I won’t be able to see The Crucible, although I would love to. If it was a possibility, I would been there in a minute!

    • I understand what you’re saying about the public probably having more in common with what you’re looking for. I agree. But I guess the long distance requires me to have a certain something more. Money and finances are a big motivator.

  10. Also there’s this from Twitter
    “BAKER @John_Obert
    Also, Richard Armitage’s talent has been woefully undervalued in film. Give that man a role with a real script.”

    • I was heartened to read that. I’d love to see him with a meaty script and like he said “just him, another person and a camera.” Well, something like that. 🙂

      • Undervalued, yes. He just does not fit a mould – leading man, handsome, by Ken standard? (tongue in cheek here.) Character actor? Very tough for $$$ – based producers (they have to be, arts funding has to fall or not, in any era of history. Patrons are scarce.)

  11. I would say to them.. “just watch your tongue.. coz something very unpleasant (in my country we call it coo-coo 😉 ) might happen to you!”

  12. I agree with Servetus that both count. It’s up to us individually to weigh the importance of each. I guess that’s where wisdom comes in to assist.

    What’s interesting about a lot of longtime Richard Armitage fans is it seems a significant number of them are theater goers and readers and generally people who are thinkers. At least that’s the impression I’ve taken over the years, and in fact is what drew me to enter this sub-culture. If the makeup had been anything less, I doubt I would be here. Given this, I generally trust the opinion of longtime fans.

    I think I felt compelled to say that about the fan base because the idea I’m inferring in part from this discussion is that fans are unable to be discerning. Yet all of us, who I assume are fans and most longtime fans, are here discussing this.

    All of that aside, I would love to go to London to see him in a live performance and to hell with the critics. Most of that zeal is predicated on the fact I really do think he’s a fine actor, and that I’m not a fool.

    • I don’t mean to imply that fans can’t be discerning, just that some can be blinded by their admiration and zeal for him to succeed. I do think as a fan, we have to work more at being unbiased.

      • I also feel like there’s strong social pressure among fans to conform on certain points. At the beginning of my fandom, i was much more capable of being objective, but I found that the boundaries were narrow for saying anything truly critical. In turn, because it becomes harder to maintain certain kinds of distance to the subject, I turn off certain critical filters. I also find that after four years I feel a huge affection for Armitage or rather my fantasy of him, and that plays a role, as well.

        • I’m glad I have very seldom felt this way. And not just with this fandom but in life. Perhaps it’s due to realizing that no matter what’s said, at some point, someone, somehwere is not going to like it.

          • I have made the same experience in life Frenz… By nature (or perhaps rather by education?) I have a tendency always to please and never to disagree. Life has shown me that that simply isn’t possible. However, I don’t think that was JudiAng’s or Servetus’ point?

            • It’s late, so I may just be tired, but I plead ignorance to what you are both talking about. I suspect the confusion is that my comment was not clear and appeared I was addressing the whole body of what Servetus’ said when I was really only commenting on her reference to the societal pressure that fans feel. I’ve never gotten the impression Servetus’ felt that pressure, so my comment was not directed at her nor anyone in particular. My apologies for not being more clear about that.

              • No worries… I only replied to say I agreed with what you wrote, i.e. it’s impossible to go through life and please everybody. I openly express my opinion – at least on matters that are important to me.
                I understood Judi and Serv were referring to the question of how much our fandom influences our perception of the performance but I may be wrong…

                • I think there’s been ample evidence in the last year or so that social pressure in *this* fandom anyway is not limited to disagreement (I think x, while you think -x) or differing views (I think x, while you think y).

      • I hear what you’re saying. Fans are biased, but we are biased for a good reason. Many of us didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and have come to this group because we saw the thoughtfulness of Richard Armitage and each other, and yes, the pedantic nature of many of us including Richard. That is not a criticism. Many of us analyze the shit out of everything and like to share it even when it’s not flattering. It’s hard for me to think Richard in our midst has completely obliterated that.

        Net: if there’s a problem with that play, we’re eventually going to hear about it and probably from another fan.

        • Hey, I agree that if there was something wrong with the play, we’d hear from a fan. But if there was something wrong with RA’s acting, would somebody say something for fear of seeming too critical? That’s what I wonder.

          • I can’t speak for everyone, but I hope there are enough people who don’t worry about others who don’t agree with them, because there are always going to be people who disagree. Always.

              • I was commenting on the societal pressure to conform. If disagreement with what someone’s doing is not the basis for the pressure, then what would be? Honest question.

      • I know the assumption would be that since fans have problems being objective (accepting that as a truism), our feedback would be less valuable – but what about this:
        I’m not an actor or creative professional, but trained in an intense creative environment and still love that space recreationally. While the “expert’s opinion” of my work might be a pearl of great price to me (especially for future opportunity, if that were my concern as it is his) – at the same time the thoughts of those who know ME best, who are best qualified to understand how I’ve “competed against myself”, are also extremely important to me at a different level.
        Obviously, we’re not his mum, his SO or his BFF, but I have a sense he’s aware of what his fan base would appreciate or expect (while I assume he hasn’t felt limited by it in decisions he’s made).
        And if he does have that person who surfs the web “for him” to keep him sane, I suspect he might be quite interested if they found thoughtful, balanced criticism from a few knowledgeable “fans”, especially if it seemed relevant to thoughts/questions of his own.

        (I can’t speak to surviving anger from other “fans”, since I don’t know what recourse there is other than trying to keep an adult brain in response, and keep the disclaimer out there that Armitage is both fun and a grown man (and how!), he is not our child or our responsibility. Claiming to be a well-wisher of Richard Armitage while humiliating or seeking to destroy other RA fans seems to me the ultimate incongruity.)

        • Thanks for the considered comment SH. 🙂
          I’m positive his people will check for reactions from his fanbase. As some fans return possibly a second and third time, there will be pithy reviews about things they may have missed at first blush. I’m also curious to hear the theater-goers reactions to the reviews and the progression of the play through its run.
          I agree with your about the ultimate incongruity. Hopefully none of that will rear its ugly head this time.

        • If he’s the kind of person I think he is, I’m sure he’s interested in constructive criticism from qualified people (“that was great” or “I didn’t like that” aren’t especially helpful notes if one can’t say why); at the same time, you kind of have to be in relationship to someone to give them constructive criticism and you have to think about what kind of criticism is welcome. When I’m writing about Richard Armitage, though, I’m not really giving him tips (well, maybe about his clothing, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek), I’m mostly reacting.

          There have been signs in the past that he was interested in what fans had to say about his various performances (and sometimes surprised by it) in some interviews. But it usually comes up as a divergence between his perception of a character and what audience members thought (his opinion that Thornton was not an attractive romantic hero comes to mind, for instance).

          re: social pressure — I think a lot of times it’s more subtle than that. For example, there are things I think about Israel that I choose not to say in a synagogue or to people I know casually. If one wants to be critical one always calculates the cost (and whether one things one will regret having said something, a problem that I’m fairly immune to, admittedly). One reason we have that “confessions” tumblr is because there are unpopular viewpoints that don’t fit into the majority fan culture in which we coexist but which people feel they need to express. I think it can be harder to calculate that cost on the Internet because so much about the context of statements gets erased.

          • Thanks for making distinction between “criticism” and “reaction” – your right, our fan reviews / discussions are more reaction than critique, and to your point, that’s more appropriate.
            Lots of thoughts about not only social pressure, but that crazy Thornton comment of his! must sort out wheat from chaff 1st though….

  13. I assume that the play will be watched by “people who count”, those who put the money in show business, directors preparing future projects, producers, writers. I really care for what that people think after watching Richard’s performance, because they will be the ones to hire him for future works. The list of misleading criticisms are so long… the first one that comes to my mind is the cold criticism that BBC’s “I, Claudius” received after the first chapters were aired, and now it is considered one of TV masterpieces.

    • Had it been anybody but our crush, I’d say to hell with the critics. But I agree that they can really affect RA’s future ambitions since he wants to widen his scope.

  14. As always Judi a sound post that mirrors much of my own feelings. I have got a ticket for July but it is an add-on to a 3-day-stay in London followed by a weekend with my UK friends near Manchester. The price of the ticket equalled the price of my flight to London and I thought about whether I really wanted to spend that amount of money on an evening in the theatre but then I have been a longtime fan and highly likely this will be my only chance ever to see Richard live on stage. I have seen Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in the Haymarket Theatre playing Waiting for Godot and – tbh – I don’t expect The Crucible to equal that performance. I also guess Richard would be the first to say that he isn’t Ian McKellen (you know what I mean). So what do I expect? I am not sure…
    I know that the official reviews will play a key role in the success of The Crucible. When I booked my seat last week there were still plenty of tickets available so I guess The Old Vic needs positive reactions in the media as well as word of mouth propaganda in London. As for the importance I place on official or come to that on any review: I read them but I am always prepared to differ. All too often I have been thoroughly disappointed by a theatre performance or a movie which had been highly praised by critics and vice versa… I like to form my own opinion. I have wanted to go to The Old Vic for ages. Now I have the opportunity and I am looking forward to it – all I hope is that I’ll I see a good quality production. Standing ovations at the end of Saturdays production could be a good sign – I’m fairly certain there were quite a few ordinary (as in “not-fans-of-Richard”) people in the audience… 😉

    • I guess where a fair amount of money is being spent, the ante rises on expectations (at least mine). Happily I don’t think we are in danger of being disappointed over the production although some may differ as to RA as a headliner. (Keep in mind I haven’t seen him yet and therefore can’t offer my unimpeachable opinion as nobody in particular.) 😉

    • there’s also, in live theater, the “they’re just having a bad night” problem. To me this really complicates the whole question of very long journeys to see live events.

      • If the play was staged in the U.S. I definitely wouldn’t fly over and see it… Far too expensive. The performance might be cancelled. The actor(s) might have a bad night… I guess that makes me a ‘bad fan’ 😉

        • I agree with this when considering a flight to the UK. I would never fly there just to see Richard Armitage in a performance. Not because he’s not worth it, but I really am a tightwad and could never justify to myself spending money on travel and lodging for a single performance or even a couple of performances and especially when so many variables could go awry. That is not a commentary on what anyone else chooses to do. It’s a commentary on my tight fist.

          • Under ordinary circumstances, I’d be there in a heartbeat; never had needed much excuse to head to London. 😉
            But now that I’m retired without a second career, I have to be more sensible (or so I tell myself.)

            • I love London and am very much looking forward to my stay but I know it’ll be expensive even though I fly with Ryanair (fingers crossed please) and stay in a comparatively cheap hotel. Going – for instance – to New York would mean no summer holiday for me. That’s a luxury problem I know…

  15. I don’t care about fans’ reports or critics’ opinion.I prefer to rely to my own opinion. Sometimes we must to take a risk just for the fun. I have my ticket , you only live once.

  16. Richard Armitage is, and always has been an “ensemble actor”, I think. He has, at times, stood out in the ensemble, because of physical attributes – height, voice, facial features. And well-trained and crafted talent and versatility. Some professional critics might approach the play, and perhaps review according to their bias, which might involve a perception of the actor’s “fan” popularity to view the play unfavourably, but I doubt that it would be based entirely on this. Fans are valuable in helping get “bums on seats” – financially crucial to any theatre and stage production. Fans are not the sole criteria for the success of a play, they play a part in it. Miller’s Crucible was, and remains controversial in interpretation; that could draw other bums on seats as much as any social media-bally-hoo-ed return to stage of a popular actor. As the stage does not allow re-takes, the lead actor could be off his/her game on any given night or the members of the cast might not gel at times. Which will influence the perception of any play-goer. Surely a three-month scheduled run of an Old Vic production is as gruelling as three years of training and performing as a fantasy dwarf on-screen? In a different way.

    • Do you think his talent as an ensemble actor could adversely affect his ability to be a headliner? Here as the lead, people will more likely than not to expect him to shine, to exude something that rises above the rest of the cast. That’s what I think was behind the criticism that “the lead was weak.”

      • That is a really interesting point, since one review said it was a credit to him that he didn’t take over but allowed the ensemble to shine, i.e. no “psychological monologuing” I think the term was. That one person who stated baldly that “the lead was weak” didn’t explain or qualify it in the tweet I saw, so it would be interesting to know more about his basis for saying that.

      • I didn’t intend to over-emphasize Armitage’s talent as an ensemble player. The actor playing Proctor must be capable of a strong performance. “Headliner”? Although long missing from the stage, hasn’t the actor sufficient name-recognition in the U.K. now to warrant an advertising profile for an Old Vic play? Perhaps not yet a household name on the level of a Colin Firth or a Cumberbatch – but reasonably well-known.

  17. In terms of box office, I’m not sure it’s going to matter that much one way or another. The Boy from Oz was not a critical hit, but they had sold out shows every night because Hugh Jackman was amazing and word of mouth got around it was a lot of fun and he was spectacular, and critics be damned. I’d love to see Richard get the kudos from the critics he deserves for this, because ultimately it’s good for his career (casting directors do take that kind of thing into consideration), and because it’s good for his self-esteem — this is his first time on the boards in a while, in a role he’s coveted for ten years. I think the fans are going to love him in it no matter what, pretty much, but the critics and the ‘insiders’ are the one who will be important to his future career. So yes, I hope he knocks it out of the park on press night and flattens them all with his brilliance.

    • Didn’t know that about the Boy from Oz besides knowing it was quite popular. Unfortunately, didn’t get to see it myself.

      Yes, the critics and insiders will be important to his future career which is why I’m eager for press night. As serial fangirl, this is my first fandom in which the crush’s star has such potential to rise.

      • I’m also eager to see the professional critics’ press reviews. They do have their place in the scheme of things. As have the audiences, fan, and just plain theatre-lovers.

  18. If I paid attention only to reviews from critics, I’d never see anything–that said, I want good critical reviews for Richard because this was a dream role for him and he has worked long and hard in his career and he deserves it. I’ve been following him for 10+ years now and I want him to have everything he can possibly achieve.

    • Yes, I want to see him do well for the same reasons. Did you ever think after 10 years that he would be poised on the edge of serious stardom?

  19. I don’t care what the critics say, but I am interested. Reviews rarely influence whether or not I see something — especially anything with RA. At this point, I just want to see his work and judge for myself.

    BTW, thanks for the info re when the reviews will be coming since I’ve been looking for them with no luck — now I know why.

    • Yes, I too have that ambivalent feeling: on one hand I don’t care what the critics say, but on the other hand I do, maybe for RA’s sake. July 9th and 10th seem so far away!

  20. Pingback: Servetus’ private previews reports: What I heard from friends who were there | Me + Richard Armitage

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