FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING – Part 3

You have probably guessed by now that my two previous posts were referring to Richard Armitage’s recent choice of role in the third Season of the TV Series  Hannibal directed by Bryan Fuller, which is, it seems, extremely popular in the United States. Please believe me when I say that I have never before opposed something without actually having experienced it first, apart from the obvious pits such as drugs, binge drinking, promiscuity to name but a few. It is with great reluctance and much apprehension that I embark on this seemingly unjustified rant, as I have nothing but sheer admiration for Richard Armitage the actor but more so the person, but try as I may, I cannot bring myself to watch anything related to this series, beyond trailers, short YouTube videos of the two previous seasons, scenes from the film Red Dragon, or to read sections of the book it is based on by the same title written by Thomas Harris.

Let me put my reluctance into context. When I first started researching on this, the first thing that came up was a video which described Hannibal, the TV series,  as “Disturbingly Delicious”: disturbing referring to the stark, vivid,  shocking imagery related to the crimes committed by some of the characters, and delicious because there is this kind of generally accepted vibe going on in social media amongst many supporters of this series, including its producers, that murderers who torture, mutilate & eat their victims, is  fair game as the subject of laughter and banter. If you don’t believe me or think  I exaggerate, look no further than on #Hannibal, the twitter feed of the program, or google reviews such as this one which says, I quote,  “See, the trick is to hide all your gore and carnage within a pristine baroque palate of gorgeousness. And then make people want to vomit.”

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/06/05/hannibal-8-12-extremely-disturbing-moments

Personally, I think that although the Horror Genre is not for me, it is valid and an art form in its own right, and I appreciate that some enjoy it as a way of escapism; can’t quite bring myself to describe it as entertainment. Maybe if as a society we begin to ask ourselves the tough questions such as why do we live in a world where people get such a kick out of watching the most violent of murders and even cannibalism, we will begin to be able to tackle the problem of violence, suicide and even terrorism.

Nevertheless, with each new Horror program that is produced, the boundaries of what is acceptable as an art form seem to be pushed further and further with a complete disregard for the effect some of these programs and the hype they create may have on those watching who are mentally unstable, incapable of discernment, the young and easily impressionable, etc. We all put our hands to our head when we watch the news of yet again another savage murder, killing spree at the hands of a person/persons who on the outside seemed like a “normal” balanced individual. I am by no means blaming these type of programs for a murderer’s actions, clearly, but many agree on the effect that violent graphics and behaviour in video games have on young and/or vulnerable individuals, so how is a TV program centered on such horrific violence any different?; why is it exempt of any responsibility? It is no good hiding behind the argument of the program being certified 18. We all know many youngsters and even parents do not pay any attention to these restrictions or guidelines, so let’s not pass on the bucket of responsibility. We all must do our bit, surely! What hope is there for aiming to become a balanced and healthy society, if we all happily shift the blame on someone, something else; if we turn a blind eye on what is so obviously detrimental to a healthy society? The blind leading the blind springs to mind (no pun intended with regards to the relationship between the characters of Francis Dolarhyde and Riba, the blind woman, though now that I mention it….maybe topic for another blogpost though highly unlikely)

There has been much talk recently in the news about the responsibility of sports men and women who many children, teenagers and even adults see as role models. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where individuals are becoming increasingly isolated as we spend a large amount of our time on social media, on the internet, or simply away from other people. The sense of unity, support and oneness which make for healthy, strong communities is ebbing away, and so as people, we are becoming isolated islands in a big, dark scary ocean instead of many cities or states which are quite diverse but joined together under one continent or country. We are therefore plodding along alone and often frightened, because we no longer have that support network or sense of being anchored safely by our emotional and physical bond to others. As a result, the most vulnerable, the most naïve can’t help but look up to the so-called “role models” in our society and be guided by their actions, attitudes and behaviour. If the pillars of our society, the movers & the shakers, and particularly those who regulate and are at the height of the entertainment industry have no scruples in putting together or allowing a program which homes in on evil of demonic proportions, can we trust our youngsters, the mentally ill, the mentally vulnerable to apply censorship filters to something which potentially may trigger violent behaviour in them? I don’t think so. Violence breeds violence. I think most of us can agree on that.

But if that wasn’t enough deterrent for responsible talented adults from jumping on the ever increasingly popular and widely accepted money-making wagon of Horror movies and Horror TV series, let’s then focus on the issue of making violence appear sexy or appealing. I cannot begin to tell you the number of tweets I have recently read of people who admit to actually “falling in love”, admiring and even feeling sorry for some of the characters, mainly the psychopaths at whose hands the most violent and horrific of acts take place. Many speak of these characters with utter admiration based on how highly intelligent, charismatic and even endearing some of them are. For the morally discerning and mentally balanced person it is easy to draw the line between fiction and reality, to tell the innocent from the guilty and  the victim from the psychopath, but what happens when a person who is not mentally healthy or who is not mature enough finds it impossible to draw a clear line between these polarized principles which are so obvious to the rest of us? With such charismatic and highly intelligent characters who are able to draw in, during the Hannibal series, even those who are supposedly in authority and responsible for bringing the killers to justice, how can we expect a vulnerable impressionable individual to not elevate these characters to role model status even to deity status? It happens. We often witness on the news loners/bullish gangs who go on a rampage in the name of this, that or the other, completely losing perspective on the boundaries of what is right and what is wrong, of the very blurry line that sometimes  lies between the circumstances that define someone as the victim or the perpetrator.

Richard’s recent casting together with the recent introduction to the upcoming 3rd season of actor Zach Quinto has launched an avalanche of excitement round the Twittersphere centered along the fact that since these two actors are so “hot” and “sexy”, Hannibal must now make for compulsory wiewing. Richard Armitage himself said during an old interview about the issue of violence in “The Hobbit” films: “Peter Jackson always had this debate with his design team and the actors that you can’t undersell violence. It needs to be as shocking and violent as it really is, but you can’t glorify it or make it look sexy or appealing”.

I am pretty certain Richard is going to find it absolutely impossible to not play to the millions of fans’ expectations who are eagerly waiting to see a “sexy” Francis Dolarhyde do his thing. The eroticism in the #Hannibal series and the film ” Red Dragon” where Ralph Fiennes played the character of Francis Dolarhyde is undeniable and no doubt part of its wide appeal. I have nothing against that. It clearly has its place when done carefully, tastefully and responsibly, but when you mix eroticism with extreme violence and the characters playing both are ranking in the top places of magazine’s sexiest men lists, we have a serious problem. So much for not making violence look sexy or appealing. I know this would never be Richard’s intention in accepting that part, far from it, but how can it be helped? When you read fan’s tweets, this is exactly what is pulling in most of the viewers who are expectantly waiting for the 3rd Hannibal Season to be aired. I just think Richard is far superior, classy and better than all that. But I am just a fan, right? So who am I to have my say? Well, seeing as I have already had a fair share of abuse, aggression and disrespect on my twitter account from Hannibal fans (which ironically only serves to confirm and validate the points I share here), I feel it is necessary at this point to point out the obvious: THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION WHICH I TRUST I AM ENTITLED TO, AS I BELIEVE I STILL LIVE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY WHETHER FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS HIGHLY REVERED AND RESPECTED (#JeSuisCharlie,  for those who have already forgotten). At no point have I been rude or disrespectful to the person of Richard Armitage, whom by the way I admire and care for greatly. I hope that this transpires from my two previous posts on this subject.

I leave you now with some extracts from the very many reviews I have read on the Hannibal Series. You can make up your own mind, just as I have! In an ideal world, I would have preferred to reserve my judgement until the series is broadcast and I get to see for myself whether I am talking nonsense or not, but I just cannot bring myself to watch it, though I have really tried. Whatever the outcome, there are two things I already know for sure: the first one is that Richard will give his absolute best and all in that role and will do it for artistic purposes and as a personal and professional challenge. The second thing is that his character will be oozing sex appeal as will others’, and inevitably sex-appeal and violence will be married together by the least discerning as a valid and appealing trait/behaviour which one can emulate and even look up to. The rest is history, and as it is often the case, we will look back at history and learn the lessons we couldn’t learn whilst they were staring us right in the face.

The last thing television needs is more serial killer dramas. (emphasis is mine) But when they’re this well made, this smart and creative and unexpectedly funny? Then, yes, more “Hannibal,” please.” More from http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-nbcs-hannibal-serves-up-delicious-second-season-course

“In the end, this show is not about cops and killers or even reality and dreams. It’s about how art affects the mind and body. It explicitly likens its subsidiary serial killers to striving artists (emphasis is mine) struggling to perfect their style and be noticed by the public and appreciated by critics (the FBI). The killers work in mixed media: wood, steel, soil, plants, flesh, bones, teeth. When Will describes an especially elaborate murder scene as “a canvas made of bodies,” in which “each body is a brush stroke,” he’s describing Hannibal itself.” Read more from http://www.vulture.com/2014/02/tv-review-hannibal-season-2.html

“Even with all the vomit-inducing states of death it presents, the most unappetizing part of “Hannibal” is its lack of humor. Viewers need a break from all that darkness, and there’s very little to laugh at except the gastronomic episode titles, which include “Aperitif” and “Amuse-Bouche.” In seriously exploring what drives people to kill, “Hannibal” serves up a meal too heavy to enjoy each week.” http://articles.redeyechicago.com/2013-04-03/entertainment/38255785_1_hannibal-lecter-graham-bryan-fuller

 

 

 

“When you fight pornography you fight global capitalism” “Fifty Shades of Grey” – “American Sniper” – “Pornography” Robert Jensen writes; “is what the end of the world looks like.”

anewcreation:

I think this blogpost relates somewhat to the topic I am currently writing about, and I definitely feel it is of the utmost importance we pay close attention to its message for there is so much at stake.

Originally posted on Fahrenheit 451 Used Books:

nwoenemy

BOSTON—“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the book and the movie, is a celebration of the sadism that dominates nearly every aspect of American culture and lies at the core of pornography and global capitalism. It glorifies our dehumanization of women. It champions a world devoid of compassion, empathy and love. It eroticizes hypermasculine power that carries out the abuse, degradation, humiliation and torture of women whose personalities have been removed, whose only desire is to debase themselves in the service of male lust. The film, like “American Sniper,” unquestioningly accepts a predatory world where the weak and the vulnerable are objects to exploit while the powerful are narcissistic and violent demigods. It blesses this capitalist hell as natural and good.

“Pornography,” Robert Jensen writes, “is what the end of the world looks like.”

We are blinded by self-destructive fantasy. An array of amusements and spectacles, including TV “reality” shows, huge sporting…

View original 2,097 more words

FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING – Part 2

PART 2

Just as I am finding it extremely hard to make any sense out of what I am about to share here, I am also struggling to put it into words, to get my thoughts together so that I can put my points across in the fairest, most respectful and sensitive manner. It is a real challenge though to pass on information to someone else when one’s head cannot get around the inherent contradiction, the bi-polarity, the paradox and even the impossibility of the truths contained in that information, so please bear with me.

As I wrote to Richard on a recent tweet (though I think it is safe to say that with 106K+ followers, he probably receives an average of say, 1K messages on his inbox per day and that’s just from Twitter, so the chances of him ever reading my ramblings are pretty much non-existent. Having said that though, if I want to say something which I deeply care about to a person I also deeply care about, I like to say it to the person and not to someone else about that person. So with that in mind, I recently told Richard on a tweet that I admire and respect him hugely and that my rants do not seek confrontation or antagonism for the sake of it, but simply reflection In an ideal world, it would be wonderful to have the chance to hear his feedback, not personally to me but to those fans and supporters out there who may be as puzzled and wondering the same things as I am right now.

Here it goes. Picture this: the same super talented actor who gave us a heart-wrenching, soul-searching, spell-binding rendition of John Proctor in The Crucible; the same inspiring, purposeful and inspired human being who being interviewed about what he hoped people would take away with them on having seen his performance and the play, said: “I hope our audience leave with a sense of purpose, duty and responsibility”, and who in answer to “What is the most important thing that playing Proctor has taught you?”, said “That truth may be hidden, buried, warped and discarded, but man becomes closer to “His God” when he fights for that truth, even at the cost of his own life. The courage to die for the truth”; the same man who in answer to “What aspects of society/culture do you think The Crucible best speaks to today?” said: “It speaks of prejudice and persecution and any society which has permitted its government to legislate in favour of such denial of human rights, be it race, gender, religion, sexual preference and political orientation”, and still the same man who when asked “What do you hope the audience will be left contemplating after the performance?” answered with these wonderfully inspiring words: “I hope our audience leave with a sense of purpose, duty and responsibility… That they are at one with their mortality and that they believe in love.” Wow, I have goose-bumps all over even now. To hear an individual of his current popularity with the platform and the following he enjoys, speak in those terms, with such clarity, courage and determination, is for me almost as powerful and ground-breaking as watching Martin Luther King deliver his “I have a dream..” speech. It’s a breath of much needed fresh air in a world ruled by Mammon, greed, the obsession and glorification of evil, violence and a sense of entitlement to immediate gratification for everything, in every circumstance, even when we don’t deserve any.

When I read those words for the first time I was set alight; my own ongoing search for truth, not just spiritual but for all aspects of our existence, was rekindled instantly with an incredible might. I thought at the time: “that’s exactly the clarity of thought and purpose I want to have in my own life, in my own journey. This guy is on a quest, a worthy quest; he is onto something. He has great leadership qualities which are clearly manifested in the roles he likes to play and in the fact that he is often drawn to those roles. There is a heroic quality about him, a courage, a boldness. He knows where he is going and how to best get there. I’m in for the long haul, I thought.

Many people go about life totally clueless, surviving from one day to the next, purposeless, enjoying life’s pleasures and the good turns life throws at them, but not really preparing for the bad ones or even having an ounce of consciousness about the fact that whether we like it or not, we all carry a responsibility in how we live and of what we do with our time, our gifts and our resources. If not for anyone else, we owe it to ourselves to honour the life we’ve been given and to try to develop our potential to its maximum, try to do something meaningful with how little or how much we may have. I want my life to mean something, to leave something beautiful and good behind. I want the immediate world that I engaged with whilst alive to be a better place when I’m gone, because I was there and did something to better it. I don’t see much point in living otherwise, quite frankly.

Here is an actor whose journey does not appear to be dictated or ruled by what sells, what provides fame and fortune, what brings popularity and the magic formula to limitless open doors that lead to where one wants to go, whatever that may be. We all have to make a living, but in my opinion it has always transpired that for Richard Armitage his freedom when it comes to choosing a role is not coerced by the potential to become wealthy or by sacrificing, supressing what is in his heart, in his dreams in order to comply with the accepted trends and unending pressures within the Entertainment Industry.

During The Crucible he often spoke of being drawn powerfully to the role of John Proctor because it offered a first-hand experience of an “Ascend of the Soul”, of living, if only for an instant, what it’s like to have the courage and honesty to rise to the best one can be when everything and everyone is against us and puts us in a corner, where we either succumb to their wishes or we die battling for the truth.

Richard has said in the past that choosing a particular role stemmed from his passion for the written word, not any written word but a particular piece of literature, a beautiful piece of literature, one that when you are exposed to its power, it helps you fly to heights which you never knew existed; it allows you to feel lofty, honourable, wonderful emotions you never thought worthy or capable of feeling, it takes you to a dimension we rarely break into in our daily grind, whatever that may be for different people, but that beautifully written word, just as the two sides of a coin, also has the potential to take you to depths and crevasses you suspect exist but will always go out of your way to avoid, even if in your gut, you know life has a habit of throwing us one or two curve balls along the way, so you’d better face them at least in your mind, if nowhere else, so that you are somehow prepared for what may hit you as you journey on.

So summing up, here we have an actor who shows great resolve, composure and intelligence when choosing his roles and also shows that it is he who is in control of his career’s trajectory and not the industry which dictates where to next get the big bucks from or what to do in order to get that elusive role which is coveted by all the best known actors and for which many will do almost anything. Here we have a man who clearly sees acting as not only the ability to entertain others, but also as artistry and as such he always seems to carefully search for that next role which will challenge him that extra notch to what he previously did; an actor who does not shy away from new mammoth challenging roles where he has to abandon the land of the living, if only for a while, in order to get into character and truly get into its “skin”, to the point where it is no longer the actor we see in the character, but the character becomes an entity in its own right, it acquires life of its own, and the capacity to live in our minds and hearts indefinitely.

How far in that quest for challenging oneself however, how deep into those unknown crevasses of the human soul is anyone prepared to go to prove their worth and capabilities as an actor, before the line between what is fiction and what is reality becomes blurry or even non-existent? And more worryingly, what if some of those watching do not have the maturity, experience, support network, discernment and mental balance and strength to not let certain topics, visual images and scenes get so deep into their psyche that what was meant as entertainment slowly but surely develops into a time bomb of potential crime and violence? How far does one need to go to prove his worth to himself first and foremost and then the world before the “ascend or descend of the soul” is no longer the primary focus, purpose or message in that portrayal; where it is no longer the “what” that matters in a film or TV program but the “how”, where it becomes primarily about the entertainment and shock value and very little about the exploration, interpretation and study of a literary character or the human psyche, heart, soul and spirit, about the lessons we can draw and learn from from a particular film or play? After all, isn’t what we see on a stage and on the screen designed to take us to familiar but also unknown places, to makes us feel exhilarating and powerful emotions, to transport us from our reality into the world of our “what ifs”? Where do we draw the line between entertainment and feeding our extremely real and potentially very dangerous obsession with Evil and how Evil can take over a person’s heart, soul and spirit and turn them into monsters? Why explore with such audacity, perseverance and intensity a genre that homes in on EVIL, when all one has to do is turn on the News to get more than a handful of horror, barbarism and savagery?

To be concluded in Part 3

FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING

PART 1

For those who read my blog regularly, you may recall some of the words I wrote on my post before last: “The Crucible, as recently rendered at The Old Vic Theatre in London, has released an unstoppable force spiritually, something which challenges the status quo and the complacency of a human race which right now sits pretty for the most part and in denial as the most abominable of evils, perils and injustices are happening all around us.”

In these last few months I have been basking in the glory and sheer joy I was engulfed by after seeing that play. I have been letting its message and unstoppable force get right through my bone and marrow, nourishing my soul in order to build up the courage to become another “John Proctor”, a light in that darkness which daily threatens civilisation with swallowing us all up. The Sleeping Giant was indeed awoken within me and as far as I was concerned, no one and nothing was going to put it to sleep again. My passion and zeal for truth, freedom and light have always been there, but lay dormant, anesthetized by the immediacy of obligations, responsibilities and daily worries. Try as I may, nothing and no one could wake me up from my slumber, my complacency and the all too accepted attitude of: “there are people out there who will do this much better than me, so why bother?. Let them take up the mantle of freedom, justice, compassion and truth. Let them put their all on the line. Nothing, no one could wake me up from my slumber, EXCEPT “The Crucible” and Richard Armitage’s portrayal of John Proctor.

Whether you are a spiritual person or not, whether you believe there is a God or not, hopefully you will relate in some measure to this statement: An epiphany took place that day at the Old Vic Theatre. My moral and social conscience went in asleep but it came out awake. My heart and soul were tepid for issues which make our society hang in the balance and which outcome may mean society is indeed hanging by a very fine and vulnerable thread. My heart and soul were lukewarm with regards to our world and humanity, but they were blazing like fire as I walked out of the theatre door. Even now, as I write this, tears fill my eyes. It was such a great feeling, so liberating, so empowering. It was crystal clear; every bone in my body felt that I had rightly followed prompts coming from an unknown dimension to be in that place, on that day, at that time. The jigsaw was finally complete. A sense of perfect fulfilment overcame me as I left the theatre that night.

It has now been 5 months since I first saw The Crucible, and so much has happened since then. There have been so many news items which directly relate to the issues touched on by the characters and the plot of this play. Over this period of time, I have been following Richard Armitage closely, too closely many will say (myself included), but I have grown incredibly fond of this man who not only is a great actor with amazing potential, but also comes across as a well-rounded super smart human being who has in abundance all the qualities which I hope to one day display effortlessly and naturally. I feel very akin to him. From what he has said on numerous interviews and on social media, he seems to be one of those people that when you peel off all the layers and go real deep, there is a solid, stoic foundation, a force that drives him, a purpose and nothing, no one will deter him from it. I may be talking absolute nonsense, but the fact that he has managed to pile up 103K followers on Twitter since he joined in August, and the rate it is going up at, 1000 per day right now, tells me there is something about this individual which draws people to him. Yeah, I know: “Well, of course there is”, you say, “he is the hottest thing around since….since…well…err… the hottest thing around!” Of course I agree, but looks fade and unless there is some underlying substance, no one is going to get very far on just sex appeal, not even him.

Besides the obvious physical and charismatic appeal that Richard has, there is something very earthy, very tangible, an authenticity, an assertiveness and an organic Goodness about him which makes thousands of us wait by “his side”, stick around, as he gives off the feeling that any day, any moment now he is going to do something utterly memorable, catalytic, life-altering, world-shaping, history-making . He carries this magnetic aura about him and it is impossible not to notice it. Ironically, for me it is not Richard Armitage playing Thorin Oakenshield or John Proctor and immersing himself in these characters, but it is the characters who breathe their first breath, owe their life and grow thanks to the qualities inherent in Richard and not the other way around.

When interviewed in the summer having finished the play, Richard said that in a way, John Proctor, has always been a part of him, has always been in him. I agree and I would add that he still is. I think that regardless of how good an actor you are, you can’t just finish the run of a play or a film, and shake off the character that in this case you have immersed yourself in, heart and soul, for quite a while, just as it is humanly impossible to shake off a person who has been an intricate part of your life for a considerable amount of time, whether you part in good terms or bad, they are a chapter in your life and you will inevitably carry them with you for the rest of your days; the experiences you shared will shape your experiences in the future and HOPEFULLY, the lessons you learnt whilst sharing your life with that person/character will also shape the life you lead from there on, the message that your life, your journey and your trajectory give off to the rest of the on looking, expectant world, a world so hungry for goodness, mercy, redemption, freedom, equality, light……for LOVE, right? WRONG!

To be continued in Part 2

Light brings life even to that which is sentenced to die

In the darkness

In the darkness

In the Light

In the Light

 

What a difference it makes when we see things in the light.

Where there is light, there is fire;

a fire that is capable of bringing life

even to that which is already sentenced to die.

Where there is light, there is beauty

Where there is light, there is hope,

for what spoke of death in the darkness,

in the light speaks of new beginnings, new chances

and a promise of renewal.

What spoke of inevitable death when in darkness,

in the light it speaks of what really counts:

it is not that we die,

for we all die, and we know that with certainty

but what counts is HOW we die,

whether glowing as a result of a fire still burning within

that nothing nor anyone can put out

or immersed in a permanent darkness that renders us dead,

even when we thought we lived.

Nature was not given to us just to delight us

but to guide us in how to live

so that our fire does not gradually diminish as we approach death,

but so that we become all the brighter, all the more glorious,

because maybe, just maybe,

even though we are convinced that death is the end,

What if it is just a new beginning?

Is it possible that nature has the knowledge of something that has escaped us?

It wouldn’t be the first time.

It shan’t be the last!

Same tree seen from the entrance hall at my house
Same tree seen from the entrance hall at my house

THE SPIRIT OF JOHN PROCTOR HAS WOKEN UP A SLEEPING GIANT

The run of The Crucible at The Old Vic Theatre in London finished a few days ago, and to my utter suprise and annoyance, I have not been able to function properly since then. I have been carrying deep within in the pit of my stomach a strong sense of bereavement, a sense of deep loss of something that brought back to life, something that unearthed a SLEEPING GIANT in the hearts and souls of so many people all around the world. I have been bewildered by the knowledge that some people have travelled from as far as places like Australia, the States and some Asian countries in order to witness what will turn out to be, in my opinion, a highly regarded and respected chapter in the history of Theatre and a catalyst for change in people’s attitudes toward Truth, Love  and Freedom. Indeed, there have been so many who bewitched by the sheer power which Drama possesses to mirror life, have been unable to be content with seeing the play once or twice, but as many as seven times. Crazy, one may think initially, but having experienced the play twice, I can only but relate to that uncontrollable urge and desperate attempt to not let go of something so beautiful, so transcendental which once delivered by the actors acquires a life of its own and moves high and far beyond the rows of seats in a theatre. A rare thing indeed in this world we live in dominated by speed, urgency and the shallowness and ephemerality everything we experience is tainted with.

The Crucible, as recently rendered at The Old Vic Theatre in London has released an unstoppable force spiritually, something which challenges the status quo and the complacency of a human race which right now sits pretty for the most part and in denial as the most abominable of evils, perils and injustices are happening all around us.  It is ironic that a play which is dominated by the subject of false accusations of witchery can carry with it such “supernatural” force for transformation, for good, for justice, truth and freedom, rare values indeed in today’s world and because of their rarity made all the more precious. to audiences and onlookers across the world.

Granted that the character of John Proctor and his evolution throughout the play cannot exist without the other characters, just as human beings cannot grow and develop unless sharing life with others. Having said that, it is solely the gradual and “supernatural” ascend of John Proctor’s soul throughout this play that leaves behind a blazing trail of glorious notions such as: TRUTH, COURAGE, HONESTY, INTEGRITY, AUTHENTICITY, LOVE and COMPASSION. These are notions which have laid dormant for far too long in our world; notions which were long ago replaced by their evil counterfeits: GREED, DECEIT, PRIDE, FEAR, COWARDICE, HATE, MERCILESSNESS. As I said in my previous post, these are forces which have been contending in the world for thousands of years, but today, right now, the good guys are losing this mighty battle. “The Crucible” as I have experienced it and as I have seen, read and heard others experience it, is fast becoming the antidote to a poison fed to the world daily which has numbed our senses, blinded our eyes and switched off our brains rendering us ineffective to live lives worthy of living, to leave behind a legacy worthy of remembering, and an inheritance worthy of being shared with others. For is a life well lived one that leaves this world exactly as it found it and in so many cases much worse than it found it?

There is in all of us an innate, inherent and deeply rooted longing to live for something that transcends the triviality, the immediacy of our daily grind. For some, it is a religion, for others a worthy cause such as Equality, Freedom or Justice, a charitable enterprise, being the best at what you are gifted at. That deep longing that we are all born with slowly but surely gets numbed and put to sleep by the pressures and fears that daily living brings, and little by little as we age, the brave soldier within us that once carried so much promise, surrenders a small piece of that lofty enterprise we felt born to pursue, one sorry day at a time. The glorious quest we set off on in our youth is slowly but surely annihilated by the cynicism, and everyday demands which chain to the ground our bodies, our hearts but most of all the ability for our souls to ascend, as John Proctor’s soul ascends, in those moments, seasons of our life when we come face to face with a choice to stand up, be counted and fight for what is right, for what is truth, for what is just.

Our world is dying of hunger and thirst right now, a hunger and thirst for the John Proctors that have existed throughout history but who shine for their absence today; a thirst for individuals who led by humility, integrity and courage and the acknowledgement of their own fleetingness and mortality are able to spiritually transcend beyond the carnality of their existence and give their all, even their last breath in the quest for the truth, even if that truth means losing everything that is dearest to them. Hardly anyone seems to be prepared or willing to go that extra mile, to lead from the front, to lead by example, to jump off the precipice as eagles do in order to reach glorious and new heights, in order to conquer new enemies, in order to enjoy that elusive freedom we all think we have. But are we really free, free enough to overcome the fear of rejection and alienation from others if we consistently and to the end swim against the current of tyranny, pride, conformity, lukewarmness and deceit?

This is for me where “The Crucible” and particularly the depiction of John Proctor by Richard Armitage have shifted the tectonic plates of a world dominated by inactivity and the lack of a fire in its belly in the face of adversity and evil. I deeply believe that what this play has achieved in London goes far beyond what our eyes can see and our ears can hear. It is my utter conviction that something has shifted and been released into the four corners of the earth through the spirit of truth and love that this wonderful piece of literature carries.

I am in absolute awe and truly humbled by this rare breed of individuals like the play’s Director, Yael Farber, and the actor playing the lead role of John Proctor, Richard Armitage, who go far and beyond their artistic flare and vocation in order to use their gift not only for their own profit but because their life’s mission is also to use what they have, their gift, talent and resources to create a channel through which others can travel and see too that a life worth living can only be a life pursuing even to the death those things we know deep in our hearts to be true, to be right. Anything else is not living, but dying one day of conformity and indifference at a time, short-changing ourselves of the supreme quest that it is to pursue “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This Sleeping Giant has most certainly been re-ignited in me through this play. I was there twice and I felt it; I felt its power and its weight. I saw that the people who left the theatre were transformed from the people they were when they first came in. It is for this reason that I sit here today with a heavy heart, praying that was has been released through this play is not diluted by the one other million things thrown at us, put in front of us each and every single minute of the day. When one witnesses truth, it is impossible to continue on our journey as before.  How can anyone witness through the character of John Proctor what living and dying for love and the truth truly is and at what cost, and then not have the unwavering determination to make our lives shine as they should, as they were always meant to?

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THE CRUCIBLE WITH RICHARD ARMITAGE AND HOW IT TOUCHED ME

THE CRUCIBLE AND HOW IT TOUCHED ME

Disclaimer: If you are here in the hope of reading a succinct, professionally, well written, well documented and informed review of The Crucible as currently performed at the Old Vic Theatre in London, you have come to the wrong place. This is the humble account given by a mere mortal of an experience which will stay with me forever for reasons that may not touch another person to the same degree or in the same manner.

On Saturday 26th of July I had the privilege of being able to see The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre in London. My husband does not share my love for the English word or any of its manifestations and so I don’t go to the theatre as much as I would like. I am a 44 year old Spanish woman but have been living in England for 23 years. I studied English Philology at a Spanish University, a five year degree which covers subjects such as English history, literature, philosophy, linguistics amongst others, my favourite being: Literary Criticism. When I was at University, in my mind and in my heart I was heading to one day become a Literary Critic. That was my passion and I was very good at it. I always got the highest scores when I wrote my own review on a particular piece or book. I loved the power of words and how they convey different feelings and emotions to different people; how they can touch you in corners of your soul where nothing else can; how they can make the world go round and at times stop on its tracks. Life, however, often surprises us and veers us in a direction which we never suspected we might take or planned to take. I say life veers us, but in my own experience I now know it was not life but God closing some doors and opening new ones, protecting me from choices which may have made me happy for a time but in the long run would have driven me further away from knowing Him and from having a purposeful and meaningful life.

Going to the theatre and enjoying the entertainment industry in general can be an expensive affair, specially if you wish to get a decent seat where you can feel comfortable and actually be part of what is going on on stage, and so in order for me to make a visit to the theatre a regular ocurrence, I would have needed to sacrifice other parts of the family budget which seems like an indulgence to me in these days we live in. I tell you this so that you understand that this was for me a very special evening by the very nature of its rarity, and needless to say, by the prospect of seeing Richard Armitage act on a stage and of potentially meeting him afterwards.

Being the rare event that this was going to be and knowing it may not happen again for many months, perhaps years, I decided to make the most of the experience by actually getting up to speed with other people’s reviews, their take on the play, feedback and general impressions, which I find is a good way of getting the general gist of what to expect. Clearly, the best way will always be going to the source itself and so I also purchased “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller on my Kindle and read it over the course of a week prior to my visit to the Old Vic. American Literature was another of my favourite subjects at University, although this had more to do with gazing across the room at a very attractive teacher and not so much with the subject itself, but anyway, although we covered quite a lot, The Crucible by Arthur Miller was not amongst it.

Let me tell you first and foremost that I am a Christian or at least I try to be, I would like to be. It is a very tall order following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and unfortunately, I don’t even come remotely close to even his sandals, but He is my focus, my North, my rock and the compass I use in my daily life to guide me in everything I do, say and think. More often than I care to admit, I keep Him out of the equation, but when I look for Him afterwards, He is always there to pick up the pieces of my wrongdoing, my insecurities, my prideful and selfish actions; to pick me up so that I can try and make a better go of things the next time.

The reason I tell you all this is so that you understand that choosing to go and see a play that dwells in the “taboo” subjects of witchcraft, the power of the devil and the controlling power, firm grasp and devastating results that legalistic religion at the hands of proud, control-driven and weak individuals can have on a person or a collective, amongst many other subjects, was not an easy decision to make or one I was going to take light-heartedly. I knew I was going to experience very strong emotions in an enclosed, relatively small space, full of people, at a stone’s throwaway from the actors themselves and with nowhere to run mid-flow, should my heart begin to beat so fast that no one can hear or sense anything else but the fear and anxiety running through my veins. For an spectator who is an atheist, an agnostic or a Christian in word but not in deed, a lot of what goes on during this play would go straight over their heads, but for me personally, I knew beforehand certain things I might witness during the play would make me feel terrified, nervous and very, very uncomfortable. Indeed, seeing the plot unfold was no different at various points of the play than standing in front of a mirror at home and coming face to face once again with the unwelcome but familiar ghosts named disappointment, betrayal, fear, lust, temptation, pride, unforgiveness and a number of demons which I battle with in my own personal day to day existence.

For me and for all Christians, there are two very distinct dimensions which co-exist: the natural (what we see, hear, feel, touch, smell) and the spiritual (those things which we cannot see, but often sense may be taking place, the forces of good fighting the forces of evil in the world or simply put: God versus the devil). This is as real to me as life itself. I have met self-declared Christ followers and I have met self-declared ex devil worshippers and I tell you that at their worst either of them can become extreme and cause as much hurt, devastation and pain as each other. What I mean is that pride, fear and ignorance can be a terrible thing and whether you act driven by any of those three elements, be it in the name of God or of the Devil, the results can be equally devastating.

This is something which comes across very clearly in the play as enacted by the current cast at the Old Vic. A village torn apart by suspicion, lust, pride, deceit and the willingness to sell our soul to the highest bidder when we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. This awful darkness and sense of despair in a cruel and harsh environment such as it was at that time in Salem, Massachusetts, is beautifully contrasted by the light and tenderness, the redemptive thread that runs through and is brought about in the play so poignantly by the characters of John Proctor (Richard Armitage) and his wife, Elizabeth Proctor (Anna Madeley).

Both of them, but specially Richard Armitage, convey so vividly and humanely that moment in a person’s life most of us hope never comes when our integrity, our whole being, those whom we love, and care for, the God we worship, if any, and our very soul are at stake, that moment where the choice we make will bring either life or death, both in the natural and spiritual realm. Thousands of people around the world are being persecuted, tortured and murdered for their faith right now, and for them a moment like this which is so sensitively, intuitively, innately acted by Armitage and Madeley, is all too real. Indeed, for so many there is no choice to be made, because that choice has been taken away by those who play God to sustain and feed their greed, pride, fanatism, power, you name it.

This is a very timely play and a timeless one at that for the threads that underpin it are forces which the world has had to contend with for thousands of years, indeed the whole of humanity rests and has been built and developed upon the pillars of faith, good, evil, greed, world domination, control, lust, pride, integrity, freedom, love and so many other forces which are at war with each other and in a permanent battle to establish which one shall ultimately prevail.

As a Christian woman witnessing this play unfold, the final moments during the trial when Proctor has to make that choice as to whether to sell his soul in order to keep his life or to remain true to who He is, to those whom He loves and love Him and to God himself, is for me an all too believable, foreboding, almost prophetic moment in a society which is rapidly becoming secular and where the Christian Faith who was the Lion in the Human Kingdom is fast becoming the elephant in the room. There is a sense of acceleration around us made all too aware by how fast technology is developing, scientific and medical advances are progressing, and the sense of urgency and immediate gratification we all let our lives be ruled by. It won’t be long before as Christians in the United Kingdom we may have to be in John Proctor’s shoes and be wrongly accused of something we have not done, admit to something we are not by a society which is blinded by the power of evil, self-worship and a clear lack of a moral compass and integrity; we may have to make the impossible choice of saving our life by betraying our soul or confessing the truth and saving our integrity but signing our own death sentence in the process. For me, Richard Armitage, transmitted all these emotions in a spectacular fashion. He captivated the audience and not just by his manly, handsome presence but so much more so by the palpable dynamism in his performance of the co-existing traits in Proctor’s personality where love and hate, self-assurance and fear, aggression and sheer tenderness can co-exist in equal measure. This illustrates beautifully the peril the world is in today and has always been: good and evil in us constantly surfacing within us and battling each other, integrity versus conformism and resignation, honesty versus deception and betrayal, freedom versus bondage to others, our own passions or the devil himself.

Anna Madeley particularly captivated my heart on the night too. Not familiar at all with her previous work, I was deeply touched by her rendition of Elizabeth Proctor, a woman tormented by the suspicion of her husband’s betrayal and adultery and bound by the inability to completely forgive and cut the chains that hold him forever captive to guilt and a sense of failure, the chains that keep him walking on egg shells around her, extinguishing the flame of love one subtle but lethal blow at a time; a woman whose sheer loyalty, love and dedication has slapped her right back on the face and turned her heart into a heart of stone towards her husband, desperate to show him the love she still truly feels for him despite his betrayal, but selfishly holding on to the chains of guilt and conviction that bind him, in an attempt to protect herself from further hurt, destroying in the process the chance to rebuild complete trust between them and for unconditional love to resurface once again. Having personally experienced in my own life the betrayal and the lust for another within a relationship, I am all too familiar with how unforgiveness but also guilt can have a relentless grip on us to the point where we cannot function, where our freedom to be who we want to become is completely taken away and our every move, thought and word is nothing but the echo of the fear and the turmoil we are experiencing within. Again, from a Christian point of view, these are all incredibly relevant subjects which are dwelled into sensitively but very accurately in this rendition of The Crucible. I was truly moved by Anna Madeley’s performance. It was gentle, understated but at the same time confident and firm. Both Richard and Anna were in a league of their own and a Class Act!

Worth mentioning also is the role played by Jack Ellis who plays Deputy Governor Danforth. Great, powerful, utterly convincing performance as was that by Samantha Colley who plays Abigail Williams. Looking into Armitage’s eyes during his performance was almost an unbearable feat for me. His gaze and facial expressions so intense, his demeanour so full of underlying connotations of the raging battle going on under the surface of John Proctor’s imposing countenance but frail heart. But looking into Abigail Williams’ eyes was altogether a much more challenging experience for all the wrong reasons. She really put the fear of God into me by exemplifying so well how one can behave, the lengths a person can go to, how they can lose themselves when the devil and its minions get hold of your soul. Utterly bewitching performance and terrifying at the same time. Solid performance, unforgettable!

I could go on forever as it seems unfair to not mention the other actors and characters too for they were all so good as individuals and as an ensemble. I will just have to say that if any of what is written here has intrigued you in the least to go and see this play, then please follow that nudge and be truly entertained. I can assure you your mind will be stirred up and your soul in turmoil when you come out of that theatre, not to mention your heart will flatter and skip one or two beats if you have the sheer privilege of meeting Richard afterwards. He has one of those “beautiful” faces in the purest sense of the word, and eyes that can speak a thousand words and melt rocks with just one look. My kind of Lead man!

Richard and I