No Walls: No courage = No Victory

RE:  Richard  Armitage, British Actor @RCArmitage

Dear Richard,

It is of course your absolute right to choose what to write and what to delete on your timeline and I would always respect your choices and freedom of speech or lack of it, just as I hope others respect mine. I feel compelled however to express my deepest sadness to learn this morning that you have also deleted the very first tweet you sent to Mr Trump with the images of the Berlin wall and the #nowalls tag.

When I ponder on the Annals of History, I always end up with the same reflection: How many awful trends, atrocities and human suffering could have been avoided if only more people had been courageous enough to make their voices heard in the face of evil, greed and pride? I often imagine myself living in those episodes of history and try to honestly gage what I would have done in those situations; what I would do now, if a similar situation arose. This is a mental exercise I do often to pluck up the courage to speak up when I know it matters; when I know it counts. It is scary and it comes at a price, but I am not here to win a popularity contest. Life is too precious, too exquisite to simply settle for that. I guess, I do what I’d call a “John Proctor” drill. God knows this world is becoming an increasingly hostile place and the time may well come again for all of us to make such impossible choices.

I feel we are very much on the onset of such a situation, but as in previous chapters of history, for so many of us our attention is focused on all the wrong things, the trivial things, things of no real consequence to the wellness of humanity and this world in general. So many of us have become complacent and voyeurs in others’ lives whose reality is so much worse than our own and yet, we often dismiss it as not our problem. It is their life it affects after all, not ours.

The whole world is watching, because the whole world is looking for answers, the right answers. In a world where social media has such predominance and worldwide reception, it seems to me it is the optimum platform to make some waves which in turn create bigger waves that ultimately can pulverise some of these issues threatening the very delicate balance upon which our world stands today.

I was so elated when I saw you tweeted that hashtag to Mr Trump. It gave me hope that things can change; that there are those like yourself who act on their sense of responsibility to the wellness of those beyond ourselves, responsibility to stand up and be counted as another voice who is prepared to risk everything for a reality so much bigger than our own, and yet so intrinsic to our own. It blew me away to learn that someone of your popularity and following would have the courage and character to stand up to Mr Trump and speak up. After all, when I do so, I am not really risking all that much, or at least not yet, but for someone like you, there is much more at stake. The ripple that your wave will create is multiplied by the thousands, whilst mine may initially have some impact but soon dies away.

There are so many youngsters and adults even who wait by your side every single day, virtually anyway, to hear what you have to say or not say. So many completely at a loss as to what to make of what they see in the news and in their towns, on their doorstep. So many seeking direction from voices like yours, voices which belong to individuals that are already placed in a strategic spot to be able to change the course of events, to influence through their gifting, their work, their mere presence, the very fabric of history.

Perhaps I am mistaken and the ripples that your tweet to Mr Trump created are not as powerful as I believe them to have been, but I am certain that the effect of you taking that tweet down will be monumental. I fear that it will take the wind out of the sails of those who are inspired by and aspire to emulate the behaviour of the people they see as role models, exemplary, trust-worthy. Not to mention that Mr Trump’s following and anyone who is watching will regard it as a retreat. Another battle won. Let’s go on our merry way to win the whole war.

I do not sit here in judgement. How could I? I know nothing about your circumstances besides what we read in the media and what you put on twitter. You obviously have your reasons for your change of heart. I am no one to judge you one way or the other. As I said at the beginning, it is your absolute right to do as you will. I simply wanted to share my sadness this morning as one of the thousands of people who are inspired by your character, integrity and moral and social conscience, that you have retraced your steps on what I felt in my heart to be a gigantic leap of courage and extraordinary behaviour in this current climate of self-exultation, self-absorption and self-glorification, qualities which Mr Trump is the true champion of.

With my love always,

Mercedes Underwood

 

Seeds planted deep into our DNA were meant to grow into fruitful mighty trees

Screenshot (757)Screenshot (758)Dear Richard,

Your Christmas message on twitter moved me so deeply and struck a vulnerable chord in the fabric of my being. I am a foreigner living in the UK. In the current climate, not a day goes by when I don’t give thanks for the opportunity to live in a country which is not my own, to have been welcomed with open arms and to be able to immerse myself in another culture, learn and hopefully give something back too. My folks are all in Spain and though I do not see them as often as I wish to, this is due to the life I chose and not a set of depleting circumstances forced upon me, beyond my control. To think that things could so easily change and I could be forced out from my own home, family, friends and livelihood here in the UK shakes me up to the core.

I miss my large family back in Spain terribly at times but I am blessed and lucky enough to be able to get on a plane at the drop of a hat and go and see them, just like you do. I cannot even begin to fathom what it must be like to feel such terror and threat of staying in your own home that you feel you have no other choice but to drop everything and everyone and flee for your life into the unknown and sadly sometimes into a worse fate than the alternative.

I was out at a Christmas party on Friday night and there I chatted to a Belgian guy who visited Syria many years ago. He told me about this stunningly beautiful country where people used to enjoy the affluence you speak off. Many lived in villas with swimming pools and enjoyed the luxuries and comfort that so many of us take for granted and feel a sense of entitlement to in the West today. And then he told me about the Evil that hit and tore this country apart, the rapes, the violence, the cruelty, the utter annihilation that has engulfed this nation. These people and anyone fleeing their own countries are no more deserving of this hell on earth than you and I, but they sure deserve our compassion and empathy, our love and support. It could just as easily be us having to face, for whatever reason, displacement from our homes and a total alienation from or being robbed off the life that we have always known and enjoyed. Suggesting closing our doors, borders and hearts to those in need is not progress but regressing into a mentality of the survival of the strongest, where the humane part of us is gobbled up by our animal instincts. It is regressing into a primitive state of ignorance and savagery, of dominance and control, a state of staleness and blind spots where cultures and races can no longer learn from each other and enrich each other’s points of view and gifting, be it intellectual, artistic, or even humanitarian. Closing our borders, hearts and minds is regressing back into chapters in history of oppression, annihilation, fear, dominance, holocaust, suspicion and stagnation, creating the perfect environment for yet more radical and extreme individuals to thrive in and take away the core values so many fought so valiantly and sacrificed so much to give us today.

Richard, you are absolutely right. Who are we to judge who can and cannot have what we enjoy every single day? What sets us apart from others to feel with such pride that we’ve earned a life of freedom, civil rights, choice and affluence? Absolutely nought. What makes us so darn special and sets us apart from those who live in the Kibera Slums of Nairobi or the Favelas of Brazil, those who are persecuted for their faith or discriminated against because of their race or religion? Absolutely nought! It is mere chance that has placed each and every one of us in the place we live in, to be born within a particular race or colour and to be brought up to be guided by a certain creed. To think otherwise is to lead humanity into a dangerous downward spiral of selfishness, self-centeredness, narrow-mindednes, greed and success at the expense of innocent people’s suffering and destruction; the most despicable legacy or lack of anyone could leave behind.

There is, however, a point in which I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Your profession as an actor not only does not automatically discount you from voicing your opinion in these matters, but rather places a heavy responsibility on you to do so. Whether you recognise it or not your celebrity status, your reputation and outstanding work as an artist precedes you and makes you into an exemplary role model to thousands of people out there. You have an exclusive and unique platform to not only vent your opinions but to stand up and be counted as a person who will use their influence and global presence to make a vital difference in the course of events in this turbulent world we live in. God forbid we leave the fate of this planet solely to politicians. It is specially people like you who through artistry but also through the multitudinous following you enjoy in today’s most powerful tool, social media, can actively fight the threat posed by the far right views you refer to and challenge the views and opinions of those who blinded by their own egos and agendas are willing to sell their soul to the highest bidder, even when that means putting at risk the lives of millions of innocent individuals.

My wish for this Christmas and indeed for the year ahead is a wish for more courageous men and women like you in advantageous and strategic places in society to follow their true calling or the fire in their belly, the flame that burns within at the core of their being to come forth and challenge relentlessly radical and extremists views at the hands of those who can do the most damage to democratic multi-culturally, intellectually and artistically rich and vibrant societies. I am a great believer in investing my life in exploring and pursuing without fear those little nudges we all get, the quiet small voice in our head that is telling us to push forward in certain areas, to go beyond what we are good at and into what ignites us, what we are most passionate and uncompromising about. Everything about you, starting with the name you have been given, shouts out leadership, righteousness, courage, sincerity and above all an incandescent and latent social and moral consciousness, an unwavering determination to fight for what is right. Yes, you are an actor, but I see another side of you coming through, striving to make itself heard, burning up in everything you do and say. I see a man with remarkable, exceptional qualities, qualities which are not only required but which are essential to fight the good fight, to fight to the end for the things that truly matter in this precarious world we live in.

 May the force be with you! God knows I am.

With love,

Mercedes

THE DRAGON AND THE KNIGHT: WHOM SHALL YOU SERVE?

Some of my ramblings below as a result of turning on my tablet on the Google Search page with the following image on St. George’s Day, 23rd of April

St George's Day - 23rd April

St George’s Day – 23rd April

There is something wonderfully poignant, emblematic and foreboding in that image. It just struck me as I look at it more and more, how it reveals itself as a metaphor of Richard Armitage’s journey as an actor, indeed of the very journey we all humans embark on from the moment we are born: now the villain, then the hero; now the dragon, then the knight; now the psychopath, then the pilgrim; a life driven by the powers of hell as a result of the mental turmoil and deep scarring of wounds past or bad choices made by others, but then a holy journey of redemption or pilgrimage inspired and driven by nobility, honour and faith. And so our life goes on as Good and Evil rage within our soul in a fierce battle which never ends until one or the other is victorious, commands our spirit and claims our destiny.

I get the attraction, the appeal of wanting to be an actor. One gets to experience and live through all the things which we may be too scared or perhaps too sensible to not engage with in real life. Acting gives one the opportunity to love too much or love too little; to let our heart feel with abandon until it wants to explode but without really surrendering any part of ourselves in the process; to risk too much without risking anything; to find out what the consequences of a bad choice are without really paying the price; to choose evil instead of good without really entering into hell; to gain honour, fame and a place in history without really sacrificing every single thing that is dear to you in order to get there and claim your prize. That image of St George and the dragon is foreboding because in life many of us like to behave like actors and serve two masters, but the truth is nobody can live like that without paying the price. We can pretend this world is a stage and that we are all actors on it, but eventually we must all make the choice of whom shall we serve, whom shall we follow: the dragon or the knight?

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

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 witchcraft 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