Fangirling Armitage at the theatre

Finally, I’m getting around to actually posting a little more about seeing Uncle Vanya in London last week. I’ve been writing this for the past 5 days or so, just never get around to actually finishing it, it’s just been too busy. But here it now finally is. This also ties in nicely with Herba’s and Pö’s ‘Mach was’ challenge as this time it’s all about doing something with theatre!

A few months ago in an interview Richard Armitage said: “I understand that people aren’t here to see their favourite actor doing something” but I am here to inform the world that the man is thoroughly mistaken. I specifically went to London to actually see him do something (yes, “mach was”!), namely to see him perform in Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Twice. I had originally bought tickets for only one performance but then a few weeks ago decided to buy a second ticket for a second evening as well. I was planning on going with Suzy but alas she had to cancel last minute due to a shelter dog arriving into her care. Yes, she is that kind of woman: putting a shelter animal above Richard. Suzy rocks! Her ticket for Monday evening, February 24th, went to our sweet friend Hariclea, who lives and works in London.

As Hari had to work late that Monday evening, we agreed to meet up in a sandwich place called “Ole & Steen” right near the Harold Pinter Theatre, an ideal place to get something quick to eat before the play started. I walked by the theatre and checked out the billboards…

… before going into “Ole & Steen”. I walked in and immediately saw the face of an actor I recognized, although I couldn’t for the life of me remember from what show or movie. I didn’t remember his name but I’m pretty good with faces and I just knew it was… well… that guy. I bought myself a cup of tea and went upstairs to drink it, sitting at a table facing the door, so I could watch out for Hari. I gave in to temptation and attempted a picture of that actor from above (he was sitting right below me with company that had arrived just after I had). Later, on the underground, I recognized him on posters for Only Fools & Horses, which was playing in another nearby theatre. His name is Paul Whitehouse.

Then, just before Hari walked in, I saw Rosalind Eleazar walk in as well! I only knew her from publicity stills for Uncle Vanya but I just knew it was her.

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Anyway, Hari arrived and we ate some delicious toasties before making our way to the theatre. We bought a booklet and poster and then headed for our seats on row D, seats 19 & 20. That was the 4th row and so close to the stage.

The theatre felt intimate and beautiful…

… and when the curtain went up, there was a beautiful set with Richard Armitage in it, as Dr Astrov, just a few meters away from me!

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I could see his every move and every expression and honestly, was so fascinated, with my eyes drawing back to him every time, that I may have missed other nuances in other actor’s performances. Like others have said before me, I remember Chekhov plays as being boring and depressing (I only ever read The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya back in high school and have completely forgotten since what they were about). I didn’t write down any notes after the play, so what I write here, I write from memory at least a week later.

The humour quickly popped up and kept on popping up throughout the play but I wouldn’t call it a funny play. It was tragic, really, especially at the end. I was fixated on Richard during that first viewing, but the stand out performance for me really was Toby Jones. I only know a few actors who can completely disappear into a role. James McAvoy is such an actor and so is Toby Jones. His is very empassioned and from up close you can even see him spit while he makes his empassioned speeches. His Olivier nomination is totally deserved…

Toby Jones UV Olivier nomination

I also very much enjoyed Ciaran Hinds (I would’ve liked to see more of him!) and Rosalind Eleazar (who was better during the second evening I watched this).

I had read some criticism of Aimee Lou Wood as Sonia, but (despite a slightly condescending tone) she had the most heart in this play and I think I could identify with her most.

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The doctor, no matter how handsome and mesmerzing, was quite cruel to her, I thought, by leading her on and then pushing her away. She didn’t have the power to break free from him and stand on her own and she is the definition of self-sacrifice (not in a good way). Yet I still did like her.

Anna Calder-Marshall as Nana is endearing too and she gets to tousle Richard’s hair and stroke his cheek every night!

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Rosalind Eleazar as Yelena even gets to kiss Richard every night in an almost cringe-worthy scene. The kiss is good but Astrov just pushes too much. She’s so bored with her life and too lazy to change anything about it. Dr Astrov doesn’t seem to have much respect for her and yet is attracted to her, because of her outward beauty. We felt there was some chemistry lacking between her and Astrov (he had more chemistry with Sonia, I thought) but that may have been due to the relationship between Astrov and Yelena; they just do not fit.

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The chemistry was very different with Vanya (Toby Jones). He too is obsessed with Yelena and those two really did seem to have a real connection and understanding, more than Yelena has with her own husband, the professor (Ciaran Hinds).

Yet Yelena is a spoiled brat choosing to live with the rich guy even though they don’t seem that suited for each other and Vanya is unable to escape his own bleak situation. That, really, is the whole theme of the play – everyone is stuck in a situation which is far from ideal and yet no one can break away. They have it in them to change if they really want to but they somehow just can’t and are stuck. This little scene was played out right before me while I sat in row D, it felt like I could almost touch the actors, I loved it.

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Dr. Astrov is also a very frustrating character, losing his will to help people, stuck in an impossible admiration for a woman not really that worthy and blind to someone who could be worthy. He is almost at his best when he is being passionate about the woods and yes, that drunken scene with Peter Wight really was very funny. As with every funny moment in this piece, however, there is always an underlying feeling of tragedy.

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At the end of the play, despite Sonia’s message of hope, a sense of uselessness remains – useless because everyone stays stuck and no one ever takes the power to make a change. There is hope for change but it doesn’t happen yet. I liked that this Uncle Vanya gave me a new view on the story and made me think that maybe Chekhov isn’t as boring as I remembered after all! The feeling that has stayed with me most since I saw it, is that this really was a quality staging of the play, I really enjoyed it, the performances were great, but it didn’t blow me away like The Crucible had at the time or even Jane Eyre.

There was a standing ovation (the following is not my picture but pretty much what the curtain call looked like)…

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… and Hari and I made our way to that stage door where we waited for Richard and the other actors to appear. We were joined by Cindy, a very nice lady Hari had met in New York when she was there to see Love, Love, Love.

Hari offered to take some pictures as she didn’t have anything she wanted to have signed. I already shared those pictures here. Before even the first actor came out, we were told by the security guard that Richard would not be posing for selfies, that he would only be signing things. Ciaran was the first one out and when he said something he was so soft-spoken and gentle. He gave off a beautiful vibe and felt so different from his big presence on stage! I complimented him on his performance and he signed my poster. There was a little more said, but I can’t remember what, it did include an exchange of smiles.

Richard was out next, he swiftly walked to the end of the line and worked his way up, signing up a storm. I swear, that man is quick, there hardly is any time to exchange many comments. He too has a very different presence than his on stage presence. He seems almost huddled, ducking a bit with his baseball cap on, and seems slighter in stature than when you see him on stage and screen. It’s not the first time I have noticed that but it still surprises me every time I see him. He is smiley and grateful even though he does seem determined to get it over with as soon as possible. I thanked Richard for the performance, said I had enjoyed it, but by the time I had finished saying that he was already starting to sign the next person’s programme. He did turn back to me, looked me straight in the eye, smiled and thanked me, so that was a teeny, tiny heartstopping moment.

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Here are a few pictures I hadn’t shared before. Just as Richard was finishing, Anna Calder-Marshall came out and started signing her autographs.

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Richard was gone after what seemed like a flash, Anna Calder-Marshall took a little more time and was a little more chatty. Very sweet.

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While we were waiting I caught sight of the blue hair of fellow fan Sahra who wasn’t that far off from us and who had said on Twitter she’d be there.

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I went up to her, also met her husband, and we had lovely brief chat. I then needed to get back to Hari and Cindy again as more actors came out, so we lost sight of each other. It was a lovely brief encounter, though.

Toby Jones came and was happy to sign and pose for selfies as well. My selfie with him is in the other post, won’t share it again here as I do quite I hate how I looked there, but here’s another picture Hari took of Toby with my phone:

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He’s lovely and has such a jolly face. I think he took it all in with amusement and was pleased with all the kind words he received.

Rosalind Eleazar and Peter Wight also came by and they signed my poster too. The end result is the signatures covering each other on my poster as there weren’t too many lighter spots on the image where signatures could be put with dark pens. Note to self: next time also have a silver or white pen handy!

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As Hari and I walked to Piccadilly Circus underground station we chatted more about the play. Hari was mentioning how we really liked Rosalind Eleazar but noted that she lacked some chemistry with Richard. Right at that very moment, next to the entrance to the underground, we actually walked by Rosalind Eleazar herself! Had she heard us? We weren’t exactly whispering and when we noticed we both smacked our hands over our mouths. We walked down the stairs and then burst out laughing. We hoped that if she had overheard us, she had hopefully also overheard the praise.

The second viewing of Uncle Vanya happened on Tuesday evening, the 25th. Before going to the theatre again, I met up with some new fans, people I only ‘knew’ online. Michele from The M Files blog and Rachel had booked a restaurant for us not far from the theatre. Squirrel, who comments on my blog, was also part of the party and after I arrived we were also joined by Armidreamer. All of them such lovely and generous women. Michele, Squirrel and Armidreamer even came bearing gifts! I’m such a bad person, I didn’t even think to do that… Thank you again, ladies!

After getting to know each other a little and chatting about Richard and eating we made our way to the theatre (minus Armidreamer, who was going to go on another night). My seat this time was up in the royal circle in the first row. Apparently it was a restricted view seat (due to a railing) but really, there was no restriction there that was bothersome at all.

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And look, down there you are Rachel and Michele, on your phones!

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I was glad I went to see the play for a second time. The first evening my focus had been on Richard so much that I felt I may have missed things. The second evening, with a more birdseye view, I was into the whole story and the other characters more as well. Again another great performance and maybe because I had a better overview I enjoyed the story more too the second time around.

After the curtain call I made my way downstairs and to the side exit where I found that Michele and Rachel were already standing there, right at the exit of the stage door. They sure had made it out quickly. Squirrel joined us not long after. I posted pictures of the second stage door night here. We had the same info from the security guard who told us again that Richard wouldn’t do any selfies, just autographs. We were able to chat with that security guy a bit while waiting for actors to appear, he was really nice. A big guy with a calming demeanor. I had also warned the ladies at dinner to not expect too much interaction, that Richard goes by in a flash. I was not wrong.

Anna Calder-Marshall was the first one out this time around.

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And Richard followed soon after, again making a beeline for the end of the row first and travelling back to the door. Here are some more pictures I hadn’t posted before.

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Rachel and Michele offered Richard a gift bag which he thanked Michele for as he swiftly moved on. He went by so quickly, I don’t think she even noticed him saying thank you! Again I offered a compliment while this time he signed my programme booklet and received a quick smile in return. We were standing next to another long time fan, Jan Black, whom we had started chatting to (I felt a little famous when she said she recognized me from my blog!). Look, Jan, there you are in the corner of the last pic above. 🙂

When Rosalind Eleazar came out I mentioned just having seen her in David Copperfield at the cinema and she grinned and said that that certainly was lighter fare than Uncle Vanya. Luckily she didn’t seem to have recognized me from the evening before and the unfortunate remarks she may or may not have overheard. Speaking of Copperfield: not only Rosalind was in that…

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… but also Paul Whitehouse, whom I had seen sitting in “Ole & Steen” the day before.

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Anyway, back to the stage door. Here’s another picture Squirrel took of Rachel, Michele and I with the lovely Toby Jones. Just look at his jolly face, I love it. He signed my programme booklet and when I asked him for a picture with all of us, he took his time to pose. Very sweet.

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We also asked the same of Ciaran Hinds and he also very willingly posed with us. Squirrel didn’t want to be in the pictures and was a little nervous about getting the shot. He was so sweet, told her to not worry, he’d wait for her to get it. She also had a little exchange in French with Ciaran, who is fluid in French (we later found out he apparently lives in Paris part of the time and has a French wife). Squirrel took the pictures, we thought, but I didn’t think to check my phone and later back at my brother’s house noticed that something must have malfunctioned, there was no group picture with Ciaran after all. Never mind, I have lovely memories nonetheless and am really chuffed I got to meet my Captain Wentworth! This reminds me that I actually told him that I have enjoyed watching him since Captain Wenworth and he smiled, seemd pleased and said that was quite a while ago.

Ciaran was the very last one out (“my goodness are you all still waiting for me?” he asked) and while we waited for him opposite the stage door, I caught another quick last glimpse of Richard inside. Just a blur in his dark jacket, but an extra glimpse of him nonetheless. We halfheartedly said in the general direction of the stage door “Look back at me!” but alas, that did not happen.

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I left the stage door with a nicely signed programme book and big smiles on my face. The actors really don’t have to do this stage door thing but it is really lovely when they do do it.

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The next day my plans for the day fell through so I met up again for lunch with the 3 ladies. We had lovely pie in a pub…

… and walked to Covent Garden. On the way there we saw a shop sign that made us think of Richard Armitage: bearded man with blue eyes and bare-chested…

… and a t-shirt we thought could be fun for him…

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Not long after I made my way back to my brother’s house to collect my things and then on to the airport, where I caught an early evening flight home again.

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I left London with lovely memories of meeting some very nice ladies and with new Richard Armitage, but also Ciaran Hinds and Toby Jones, memories made.

This past week the news came that Uncle Vanya has been nominated for 4 Olivier awards…

… and I have to say I especially agree with the Toby Jones and set design nominations. Fingers crossed! Although, in the acting department I am torn between Toby and James McAvoy as Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Either will be a great win.

And now, it’s time to do something else with my afternoon off (compensating for working extra on Wednesday). Tea is finished…

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… and Mr Esther (who has the day off as always on Fridays) and I are picking up our mini me daughter soon from school and heading off to Ikea.

Fangirling heart palpitation day!

So my family and I are having a lazy day at home today. The kids have been amusing themselves mostly in their own rooms with my son also napping because he really has caught the flu badly and Mr Esther has been busying himself with his hobbies and catching up on my blog posts. I have been enjoying Anne with an E again, as season 3 has become available on Netflix now and to help boost streaming numbers, I thought I’d screen it in the background on my laptop. Good news is that on my Netflix welcome page, it didn’t say “final season” as it did before, but just “Season 3”.

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Background streaming isn’t working, by the way, as I catch myself actually re-watching pretty much all of it and enjoying it yet again!

While streaming the episodes, I have also been scrolling though Twitter and Instagram to follow the fan enthusiasm for Anne and the cast has been posting stuff too. Geraldine James, who plays Marilla, showed a picture of awards won…

Showrummer Moira Walley-Beckett did not mention the words “final season” in her Instagram post.

Producer Miranda de Pencier (she played Josie Pye in the 1980s Anne of Green Gables, by the way!) shared more awards images (I’m ignoring her final season hashtag).

Cast members have shared fan art to promote the season (which has been better than the actual art Netflix has put out)…

And in the middle of all this enthusiasm, this Richard Armitage thing happened too!

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Yeah, still not over that!

Then this lovely image of some Anne cast members came which had me grinning widely.

And now, most recently, we even have Ryan Reynolds (with 15,4 million Twitter followers) supporting the renewal of Anne with an E!

This day of fangirling, which has had “World War III” trending on Twitter because of the actions of an inane US president, has had me very pleasantly distracted! I’m dubbing this my first fangirling heart palpitation day of 2020…

 

Armitage forensics: Ronda

Just before Richard Armitage’s birthday on August 22nd, I have a little Armitage treat for you. Best treat of course is to check out the Armitage birthday auction that Guylty has going on right now! But this is a little extra, a little birthday dessert, if you will.

Last week, after I posted my first Andalusian picture spam, Servetus was so kind as to point out in the comments section that I have been visiting the region in which Richard Armitage filmed an episode of Berlin Station. To regular readers here, it won’t be a secret that I never particularly warmed up to Berlin Station. So, while I did watch season 1 and 2 and little bit of season 3, I never bothered to get into the behind the scenes details of the show. I did know that Richard had filmed in Spain, but I only remembered he’d been to Las Palmas. However, episode 2 of season 2 was filmed in the south of Spain, exactly where I am visiting now on my summer holiday. Our ‘home base’ here is about 20 minutes away from the lovely old town of Ronda and Servetus reminded me that one episode had been filmed in and around… Ronda! Of course, I couldn’t resist, and the following scenario ensued between me and Mr. Esther.

Esther: So, sweetie, we need to do another fangirl forensic trip again. Last year we did Gregory Peck on Rhodos, this year it will be Richard Armitage in Ronda. He filmed an episode of Berlin Station here.

Mr Esther: That show you didn’t like? I thought it was set in Berlin?

Esther: Yes, but they did one episode in Spain. Richard has infiltrated a neo nazi group and needs to pretend to do an arms deal…

Mr Esther: Yeah, yeah. And that is set in Spain?

Esther. Yes, in Ronda. So, it’s images of Richard in Ronda! And I’m here in his footsteps!

Mr Esther: Really? The lengths I go through for you… alright, show me the episode…

Esther (at the ready, starting up the episode on my laptop): Here! I have found out the starting point but you are the Google Maps expert, help me with the rest.

Mr Esther (watching the Ronda parts in Berlin Station): Oh, I recognize that, we walked past there the other day!…. Don’t recognize that (consulting Google maps )… oh, but I know where it is and wanted to walk by there anyway… This will be there (zooming in on Google Maps)… I don’t think there’s a souvenir shop there… And see, in the market scene they don’t show the statue on the square… And look, that’s on the corner where we had dinner… Fine, we can do this, it’s partially in the section of town where we were still wanting to walk anyhow.

I’m lucky to have such a fangirl enabler for a husband. He’s so good at remembering locations, the perfect partner in crime to do this with. The kids just look at me with pity but willingly walked the route as well, as long as we never lingered too long in one spot. So, here goes…

The opening shot for the Ronda section in episode 2 of season 2 comes about 17 or 18 minutes into the episode. This is the screenshot:

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Obviously, we don’t have flying capabilities in the Esther household, so this how we saw that bridge while we were in town and the brige & town from a distance:

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All the scenes that were filmed for Berlin Station were filmed in the older part of town, to the right of the bridge in these pictures.

The first spot the actors stop at I was able to identify myself because of the name of the restaurant you see in the screenshot, the street is a side street off the main road right near the bridge:

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Again, I do not own a crane or a drone or whatever took this bird’s eye shot but we really were there ourselves:

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Richard and Emilia Schüle (who played Lena Ganz) park their car opposite that restaurant:

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And Mr Esther, with eagle eyes, commented: That P-sign is gone but you can see the faint outline of where it used to be! Even the markings on the wall below the P-sign are still visible.

Goes to show how dedicated Mr E is to details and getting them right.

So Richard talks to Emilia just after they get out of the car and walks that little section of street with the group…

To quote Mr E: “You are standing on holy ground, in the exact same spot where Richard stood.” 😉

Richard’s group moves on to another section of town, which is just across the street from the main road. This is where the souvenir shop is located, only in real life there is no souvenir shop there.

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In real life the building on the left with flags is a hotel. We walked by there a few days before we undertook the Armitage forensics walk.

We did get a shot of the door in front of which Rhys Ifans stands:

At one point Richard meets up with Emilia again. That location is a little further up the street from where the fake souvenir shop was located.

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We walked by that location after dinner so it was dark when Mr E took the picture of me there in Richard’s spot:

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Richard then walks to the market place with Emilia, that is just a few steps away from the previous location:

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There was no market there when we walked there, just a square…

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In this following picture with actor Thomas Kretschmann, you can see the iron gate that faces the valley in the background…

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… it’s where my kids stood for this picture before we even went on our forensic tour:

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Last but not least, Richard and group leave Ronda again. There’s a speedy car ride at the end…

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… which was filmed just down the street from the first location where the car had been parked:

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Walking a little further, we came to this point:

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We’re overlooking another, older, bridge over that cliff, situated lower in the old town. The cameras filming the car speeding must have stood on this exact spot as well, going by this screenshot:

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And so endeth the Armitage in Ronda forensic tour. We didn’t find the interior of that café where they talk or of the souvenir shop. We did walk into other souvenir shops in town, I told my kids to look out for a straw donkey souvenir like the one Richard bought…

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I had hoped to maybe offer that as a last-minute surprise item in Guylty’s Armitage birthday auction. The kids helped me look but no such item was to be found in the souvenir shops we walked into. In another town (Antequera) my daughter did point out this decorative item in a shop to me…

Donkey IMG_4456 Antequera… but the item was too large and not for sale anyhow.

As for villas, there are lots of villas that dot the Andalusian landscape. This is the one used in Berlin Station:

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And as we drove the other day, not far from Ronda, I spotted this villa…

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For a moment during the drive I thought that could be the one, but on closer inspection it isn’t. Still, it was a nice thought.

So, there you have it: a little Armitage forensics in action in southern Spain! It was a fun little project within our holiday. It’s our last day here, hanging at the apartment and swimming, we fly back home tomorrow. I think it’s time for me to head to the pool right now while I still can. 😎

I wish I looked this good traveling…

So, the Korean fans did actually meet Richard Armitage off that plane and boy, did Richard look good coming off a long flight like that! Does he sleep, hydrate, meditate, put on face masks, what? No selfie he makes does him justice (he always looks off to me in them), these pics from the Korean fans do do him justice – Rich looked good! I know these have been shared everwhere already, but just to keep a record of it on my site as well, here are my faves that I came across…

These are from Babappa on Twitter, I cropped them a bit (click on pictures to enlarge):

Or these from qkrxhRod on Twitter. Especially love that first one:

And these from shine_71reen on Twitter are cute too. That little smile…so nice…

Or these from Veloce

He looked relaxed, pleased, I loved the longer hair and stubble, even the white shirt looked fine. The thank-you-to-the-fans picture he posted afterwards was sweet (albeit a selfie)…

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… and a nice little addition to the great pictures of him arriving in Seoul. Thank you fans in Korea for sharing your treasures! This made a fangirl’s heart happy. 🙂

Fangirling Armitage slump lifting?

In my e-mail I receive regular “London Theatre” updates and this was in my inbox today:

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That headline links to this article. Now, I know this news is a day or two old but this makes it extra official for me and it looks like I’ll have to plan another trip to London in January now! I think I read Uncle Vanya in high school but I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s about. Regardless, Richard back in the London theatre is something I can really look forward to! Finally something Richard-related for me to get really excited about again.

I know it can’t be helped due to the nature of the business but I don’t like getting excited over something that I’d really love to see Richard do and it then falling through. I recall that Edith Wharton Summer project that still hasn’t come to fruition (will it ever?), that musical that mysteriously was never to be and what happened to the priest project we heard of some months ago? I am sure I am missing more off the top of my head right now… and now there’s some mystery Korean scifi project he’ll be doing?

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I wonder if that will really happen? I’m not holding my breath quite yet but I also don’t quite know how excited to be about this. I do like how totally different this project is and I do love how the man seems to be challenging himself in so many ways.

I so want to fangirl a new Richard project but The Lodge won’t be for me and I still can’t make myself do audiobooks. I thought the first Castlevania was alright but haven’t seen the second yet. Trevor is animation and not Rich in the flesh after all. I haven’t done the newest Wolverine audio play yet either – again, no visual Richard. I like to have audio and visual Richard combined. I’m curious about My Zoe and I’m curious about The Stranger, which he’s filming now, but even those don’t have me over-excited yet. That little dad-dance he posted on Instagram from the set of The Stranger was fun, though, so that at least was a little excitement there. 🙂

I will eventually attempt Castlevania and Wolverine and I will watch all the other  projects for him and I hope they’ll be really good, but none of these projects, nor even the Korean scifi, makes my heart beat extremely wildly in anticipation. Let me be clear, I don’t begrudge him any of these projects and in everything he does, he’s always good! Also, this all makes him develop as an actor and become even better. However, these just aren’t projects I enjoy that much, I only watch them for him and not because I’d enjoy them independently from Richard.

Yet I still hold out hope for projects I can love, because even though the recent few years of Armitage projects haven’t excited me wildly (Urban and the Shed Crew excepted and that one is dead in the water as far as DVD release goes), the man for some reason or other still remains my favourite! Now finally, for the first time in a long time, I am getting excited again because Richard Armitage is coming back live on stage and within reach for me to go and see him! He’s co-starring with Toby Jones who I really like as an actor, he too is always good. Richard in a quality play, that really lifts my fangirl heart today. Here a little reminder of how good he is on stage: The Armitage in The Crucible

Yes, I’m sure I’ll be there in January 2020 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.