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It Happened One Night

22 Nov

Sometimes you meet people for a fleeting moment, and yet they touch you in ways that leave you changed and thankful for that single encounter. Such was the case when I met Richard Armitage last night. However, I am getting ahead of myself…

Confession: I am not the biggest Armitage fan on the planet. I respect the man but I am not a keen collector of his work. I found out about RA through my sister whose fine taste in men should have raised alarm bells. I have since regretted her repeated pleas to watch North & South and slowly but surely, I have started devouring every piece of work that he did to atone for my sins. Better late than never, huh?

Now, enough of my questionable Armitage geekdom… It is already 6 am here in London and I am wide awake and my brain is loaded with wonderful memories of Richard Armitage. I am buzzing… I am grinning… I am tingling… And every now and then, I collapse into helpless giggles. I am now a hard-core convert…

I saw him perform as part of the ensemble cast that made up the just concluded “The 24 Hour Plays” held at the Old Vic on November 21. In brief, “The 24 Hour Plays” is the ultimate theatrical challenge where a host of well-known actors, directors and writers join forces to write, rehearse and perform six short plays in just 24 hours, culminating in a unique performance. As this blog post is dedicated to Richard Armitage, and thoughtfully written for the hordes of RA fans out there, I will just give my review of “The Third Wish”.

The Third Wish
Playwright: Stephen Beresford
Director: Charlie Westenra
Asst. Director: Natasha Nixon

Dennis: Richard Armitage
Debbie: Debbie Chazen
Niamh: Niamh Cusack
Miranda: Miranda Raison

The play opens with three women on stage. The setting was a fabulous looking flat in the city and right in the middle of the room was a tree. Debbie, an energetic middle-aged woman, and a bit on the chubby side was regaling her two friends with stories of the tree. Apparently, said tree has special powers. It grants wishes. She goes on to reveal that she made a wish for a bigger flat and that her wish was granted. Her friends were all gobsmacked at her changed fortunes until Debbie tells them to “wait until you see Dennis”, her husband, because he too made a wish.

Cue Dennis’ entrance to the stage. Who else would embody a man’s wish to become the perfect man? Dennis has transformed from a chubby middle-aged man into, you guessed it, The Richard Armitage! The girls asked Dennis what he wished for and he said “I made a wish to be Richard Armitage” and Voila! The audience gave rapturous applause and so they should as we see Dennis, ehr, Richard Armitage, own the stage with his panther-like moves. He was dressed conspicuously and rather appropriately like Spooks’ Lucas North. Topical, diabolical, dangerous. Hot! One can tell that Armitage is enjoying his return to the stage as he parodied his sex god status by prancing on stage, lifting his long lithe legs effortlessly, swirling his lustrous thick jet black hair as if he was the star of a new Pantene male advert! Didn’t know RA can do comedy! He was hilarious! He then goes to Debbie and they start a dance routine that left the audience practically in stitches. I remember reading that he studied dance in LAMDA so this must be all second nature to him.

When the girls asked Debbie why they chose Armitage, Debbie remarked that Armitage is beautiful but down to earth in real life. Ah, it is art imitating life in all its grandiose splendor, I love it! On the other side of the stage however, we see Armitage, ehr Dennis, looking straight at the audience, showing off his physique and probably still not used to his new demigod apperance. He then gives his wife Debbie a lingering kiss and then we see Miranda getting hold of the tree and she too makes her third wish. It was a delight to see Miranda Raison (she played Jo Portman in Spooks), same with Niamh Cusack but most of all to see Richard Armitage grace the Old Vic stage albeit a brief 20 minutes.

But you said you met Richard Armitage, Simone! Yes I did, just gimme a mo to breathe…

After the six plays have been performed, we were instructed to convene outside the Old Vic, next to Stage Door as there is a bus waiting for the actors and members of the audience to take them to the post show party in Asia de Cuba. Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good. My friend and I got on the bus, totally unprepared for life’s sweetest surprise. Richard Armitage was also on the same bus! How adorable is this man, one of the biggest stars on tv, and there he was riding with the lowly masses, sitting next to an absolute pleb (me!) and our thighs rubbing, not that I took any notice. I did not even enjoy a minute of it! I am a big fat liar!

I was surprised to see him there and I had to compose myself, so I will not come off as a blabbering idiot. Congratulations were in order so I offered him my professional and unbiased critique of the show and he seemed genuinely pleased. It was so lovely of him to ask me how I was. I think I responded with something somewhat articulate. We then shook hands and he had a nice strong grip. Let me tell you right now, that yes, this man is possibly the most strikingly gorgeous man I have ever had the pleasure to meet! He was warm and attentive. Please feel free to insert any wonderful adjective to describe him and it will most likely apply. I guarantee it.

The bus ride took all of 15 minutes but there is no shortage of Armitage charm for the rest of the night. After our brief chat, I kept to myself and left him in peace. I mean, restraining orders are real and all and I have resolved to maintain my dignity. My friend was under no such constraints! She was smarting from the fact that I have not had my picture taken with Richard. Thank heavens for the collusive nature of friendship! She very impressively arranged a photo op with the man himself:

He was so gracious the whole night and up till now, in the glaring light of day, I still marvel at how beautiful he is as an actor and as a human being. Mr. Richard Armitage, you have made me utterly happy with your generosity and kindness and hope you find success and joy in all your endeavors. Bow.

Simone’s 15 Minutes of Fame

23 May

RUSSELL23RD

My SRB-stalking days are now over. I’ve just been discovered!

Thanks to Valerie Grove of The Times who has heard of my SRB exploits and shared it for all the web to see. Referring to SRB, Grove writes, “He doesn’t even seem to know that he has a devoted blogger, a nurse named Simone, who recently reported that “SRB was getting a lot of love” in New York, where The Cherry Orchard theme went down well with the newly cash-strapped audiences”.

What about that huh, my cover has been blown, now I’ve got nothing! I have to behave like a normal theatregoer!

Anyway, to read the full article please follow this link.

Welcome home SRB and be seeing you Tuesday night! x

Simon Russell Beale Really Wanted to Sing

10 Mar

simonrussellbeale1

The Actor Who Wanted to Sing

There are two things renowned British actor Simon Russell Beale wants to do when he comes to Singapore: eat a durian and have a few sticks of satay. He is no stranger to Singapore either. He was born in Penang and often came here as a child. But the 48-year-old bachelor, dubbed the greatest Shakespeare actor of his generation by Britain’s The Independent newspaper, never had a chance to taste the spiky king of fruit.

In a recent interview with Life! in New York, he adds: ‘Both me and my sister order satay whenever we see it in a restaurant. But we have never had satay like the satay in Singapore.’ He is coming to town to star in The Winter’s Tale, the high-profile Shakespearean play directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. It plays at the Esplanade Theatre from March 26 to 31. The play opens The Bridge Project, a three-year collaboration between American arts centre Brooklyn Academy of Music, London’s Old Vic and Neal Street Productions, a film and theatre production company owned by Mendes.

Beale is the British heavyweight in an Anglo-American cast which includes actors Rebecca Hall and Ethan Hawke. He plays jealous King Leontes, the king who accuses his wife Hermione (Hall) of adultery. The critics in New York have raved about his performance. Ben Brantley of The New York Times writes: ‘I can’t think of another actor of Russell Beale’s generation who could bring such transparency to the darkness of Leontes while still honouring the mystery that is so essential to The Winter’s Tale.’ Speaking to Life! at the Harvey Theater in Brooklyn, where the play opened, the warm and articulate actor reminisced fondly about his childhood.

He was sent to boarding school in Britain but would travel to visit his parents here, where his father worked as an army physician. Singapore of the 1960s remains vivid for him. Street names roll off his tongue easily. He remembers Orchard Road for shopping, a swimming pool in Dover Road and his parents’ apartment in Pasir Panjang Close. He says: ‘The most exciting bit was getting out of the plane, walking down the steps of the terminal, the hot air coming out like a great big wall. ‘And there was mum and dad, in the arrival hall, waving.’

He cringes when you bring up the ‘greatest actor of his generation’ accolade. ‘It’s a bit embarrassing but incredibly flattering of course. It doesn’t really mean anything. You could point to a hundred actors and say that.’ After a pause, he adds: ‘Perhaps I’m the only one who has specialised quite a lot on stage.’ Modesty aside, he has achieved excellence in his 25-year career and is something of a national treasure back home.

A mainstay in the British theatre scene, he has played several definitive roles, such as Konstantin in Terry Hands’ 1991 production of The Seagull for the Royal Shakespeare Company; a cynical Thersites in Mendes’ Troilus And Cressida and the title role in 2003’s Uncle Vanya, for which he won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor. The award is the most prestigious in London theatre. But he had not always wanted to be an actor. He had initially wanted to be a chorister, going on a music scholarship to Cambridge University and later to the leading arts school, Guildhall School of Music and Drama. But he did not finish that course. ‘I wasn’t a particularly good singer. At Guildhall, I remember looking at the actors and thinking, ‘I’m better at that’,‘ he says. He adds with a laugh: ‘Even my singing teacher thought I should be an actor. I think that was fairly conclusive.’

On the perception that British actors do Shakespeare better than Americans, he says: ‘I know some American actors feel insecure, but I’ve seen nothing of it this time round.’ He finds similarities between doing Shakespeare and American theatre. ‘The Broadway language-based, quick-fire comedy; the great American plays by Eugene O’Neill; even the television sitcoms, they require some techniques of doing Shakespeare, which is language- based acting.’ He considers his character, Leontes, a sympathetic one, and thinks he is a man suffering a breach of his usual reasonable self. ‘What he does to Hermione is a terrible aberration,’ he says. ‘His explosive moment is perhaps his biggest emotion. You should feel that he is a good man, but everything went wrong very quickly. ‘It’s really such a moving play – it taps into the fundamental human desire for a second chance.’

The brainiac – he obtained first class honours in English at Cambridge University and was offered a place to do a doctorate – says he has ‘thousands of books’. His favourite topics? English history, philosophy and music. He has just bought a new book on musical harmony. He says with a smile: ‘Maybe on the long flights I’ll teach myself
harmony.’

Thanks to Abigail who got this interview from the Straits Times.

Missing Simon Russell Beale

18 Jan

September 29, 2008 was the last time I saw Simon Russell Beale on stage, in the Pinter double bill of A Slight Ache & Landscape at the Lyttelton. I knew then that he was off to New York in preparation for The Bridge Project, a transatlantic partnership that unites The Old Vic with Brooklyn Academy of Music and Neal Street Productions, and that I wouldn’t see him on stage again until mid-May, and by then I would have been utterly miserable and inconsolable. The night I saw him last, was also the second time I met him, and this came about after a lot of deliberating whether I should say goodbye so he wouldnt forget me and all (HAH!) So like a school girl who had this huge crush on the cutest guy in campus, I stood outside waiting for nearly three quarters of an hour by the National Theatre’s stage door with a card to boot and now I dont even remember if I kissed him or what! All I can recall was how he lovingly held my hand for about a minute, listening intently to what I was trying to say like assuring him I would book the two plays when it comes to the Old Vic and I am sure I fumbled through it all after which he said, ah, you are always so kind, with those dreamy and expressive eyes of his. YAY!

So here I am, four months later and really missing him like crazy. And as promised I have booked my tickets for The Bridge Project alright but that wouldnt make him come home any sooner would it? As I am updating my blog and browsing through theatre news I decided to check on how The Cherry Orchard is doing and although the play itself is geting mixed reviews, I am really pleased about what the critics have to say about SRB.

According to Ben Brantley of the NY Times, Mr. Russell Beale, one of the greatest British stage actors, doesn’t disappoint, registering every ounce of guilt, joy, fear and wonder that comes from Lopakhin’s realization that it is he, the parvenu, who will inherit the earth.

Brian Scott Lipton from Theatre Mania shares the sentiment about SRB as the peasant-turned-wealthy landowner Lopakhin, brilliantly embodied by the suitably ordinary yet completely extraordinary Simon Russell Beale.

The evening belongs to Simon Russell Beale, who is magnetic as Lopakhin, a serf-turned-merchant with money and a plan to save the estate. This British star’s inherent comic quality and expressive, plummy voice rightly push the play toward comedy, says The New York Daily News.

This comment really got me though and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and please dont ask me why! Simon Russell Beale gracefully captures the graceless Lopakhin’s conflicts between his serf upbringing and his upper-class ambitions. His final scene with Varya (the equally skilled Rebecca Hall) is a heartbreaking vignette in which the two are unable to speak their true feelings as they chatter about the weather. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Enough, I can’t do this anymore! Anyway, here’s some production photos to share courtesy of the NY Times and NPR.

srbcherry

beale_hall_

Well, it has to be said that I do feel a little bit better now, knowing that everything is going great for SRB across the pond. Just please come home soon! x

Doctor Who 2008 X’mas Special

15 Nov

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Doctor Who. Since rediscovering it in last year’s Voyage of the Damned, I have been hooked since. I would devour anything related to the franchise! It’s a real shame when Tennant announced leaving the series come 2010 but let’s not forget that we still have him for another year, so it’s not as if it will all be over soon, 1 year is still 365 days, although for a Time Lord that’s really just 5 episodes. And the point of this blog entry is that there’s the X’mas special to look forward to and just by looking at this preview trailer I know we are in for another fantastic episode! It’s also worth speculating if David Morrissey can make a good Doctor, wasn’t his name mentioned as a worthy candidate? Know what, based on this trailer, I dont mind really! For a while there I thought it wouldnt hurt so much to see Tennant go if we had somebody like Morrissey to take over the TARDIS.

AnyWho, enjoy the trailer and tell me what you think! Cheers to my dear friend Morbius who posted the link in Facebook for it absolutely made my day, the cold I am brewing suddenly didnt exist.

ALLONSY!

Simon Russell Beale

21 Apr

I have fallen in love.

With Simon Russell Beale.

Simon Russell Beale who? Well, you probably would not have heard of him if you are not a theatre fan or if you have not come across some novel that has been made into a tv/film that has starred him in the last decade or so such as Jane Austen’s Persuasion or Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time where he played the unforgettable Kenneth Widmerpool, but this was after the time that Britain has already hailed him as the greatest classical actor of his generation, and I was a bit late in showing my appreciation for the performing arts then.

Anyway, I fell in love with SRB (as I fondly call him when I am with my pal eddie) on February 28, 2008. It was a classic case of love at first sight. It was the first time I saw him perform on stage as the charismatic Andrew Undershaft in the National Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara.

So yes, I regret having missed his brilliant portrayal of Hamlet, described by the Times’ Benedict Nightingale as witty, troubled, caring, self-knowing, morally sturdy and supremely incisive. Russell Beale made it to his Top 10 Best Hamlet list at number 1. I saw him again at the National’s Much Ado About Nothing playing Benedick in March, and oh, how much I loved him there too. Since falling in love with him I promised that I will devour anything that has his name attached to it which I often do with the rest of them. So I bought the NT’s Candide OST where he played Pangloss just to listen to his singing voice! Apparently he earned the Laurence Olivier Best Actor for that production. He will perform in the upcoming National Theatre production of Harold Pinter’s short play called A Slight Ache as Edward, opposite Claire Higgins starting in July. Come autumn he will be part of the company from Sam Mendes’ The Bridge Project that will tour New York with productions such as Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and William Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, then back again in British soil to perform the same productions next spring.

If you care to know, now that I have indulged you this far, I saw him tonight in Major Barbara, (yes, my second time) but I sat much closer to the stage and boy did that feel so much better! We are literally breathing the same air. My heart skipped a beat as soon as he made his way onto the stage and as soon as he did what he does best out there, I was alive. It felt like I was flung into the heavens, and it was such a good feeling. And I think it wasn’t just me who felt the same, the audience at the Olivier tonight loved him too, we were under his spell. But one thing I am quite sure of is that I probably love him more, because you know what, I really do.

To experience this SRB moment, Major Barbara is currently playing at the Olivier, National Theatre until July 3.

Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

5 Apr

The last time I went gaga over a television series was way back in the 90’s, mostly American tv programmes such as Seinfeld and X-Files. Since these shows folded up (at least my love affair was only up to Season 5 of the X-Files cause after that I lost interest) I have never really loved any other tv show with such a passion, FRIENDS came close but not quite. Then I moved to the UK, and without wanting to bore you with the more intimate details, I fell in love with Doctor Who since seeing the last X’mas special, The Voyage of the Damned last year, and the rest if I may say so, is travelling back in time, ehr history.

Plot: The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) independent of each other infiltrate, by not so cunning and near identical means, a company called Adipose Industries. The company has successfully marketed a slimming pill to over a million Londoners and both suspect that there is more to it than meets the eye. Donna is investigating as she (rightly) believes that by seeking out unusual trouble she will attract the Doctor’s attention. She has regretted not taking up his offer of a few lifts in the Tardis and aims to put this right if she can.

The two soon discover the truth: that the Adipose are a race of creatures that breed using the fat of other life forms. Each evening those people who have been taking the pill miraculously lose a kilo in their sleep What they do not realize is that baby Adipose are being created from their fat and are making their way back to their Nanny’s HQ. The Nanny, made aware of the Doctor’s extra-terrestrial origins, decides to speed up the birth process and it is up to the Doctor and Donna to save a million Londoners from becoming the means of producing the next generation of Adipose. – Telewatcher.com

Having seen all the first episodes of all 4 seasons, I didn’t have a problem with this episode which was really the means of reintroducing Donna’s character. I even felt it was a tad better than the episodes Rose (Season 1), New Earth (Season 2) and Smith and Jones (Season 3). Performance wise it wasn’t much of a stretch for Tennant but it was Tate that quite amazed me. She is known for her comical skills more than anything else but in this episode or perhaps for the rest of the season she can draw out a good sense of emotion if necessary. One of my favorite scenes was when they finally see each other and they were trying to speak as if miming. But the most hysterical part was this clip at 4:20:

Oh one more thing, The Adiposeans are so cute!!! And Sarah Lancashire was lush.

Welcome back Doctor, and to your new companion Donna. You are worth the wait.

Partners in Crime: 3.5/5

If you live in the UK, you can still catch the episode at the BBC iPlayer for up to 7 days.