Art & Design Magazine

Richard Armitage, Dr Gray & Dr Astrov

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

Hello everyone! It’s weird to be back blogging in these absurd and totally unexpected days, but it can be very comforting, nevertheless. Going back to the good old times may help us all. When @Natazukii on Twitter surprised us with the idea of a Richard Armitage Blogger Reunion,I first wondered, am I in the mood to do it? Because being at home for months and teaching remotely endless hours, with zero social life and with worrying, awful news thrown at us all the time,   has not been easy at all. 
But here I am, happy to be still part of a loyal community of RA well-wishers and curious to know what they all have been doing meanwhile. Now, what am I going to tell you about RA  or about me?
Out of sight out of mind?
My latest RA-dedicated posts date back to 2017 (HEREand HERE).Much life has passed by since then. Unfortunately, in the latest few years, little by little, I started neglecting my this blog. Life and teaching took over, but more than that – blame me – I started being more engaged on facebook or twitter since it was quicker and easier to post there.
What about Richard Armitage, meanwhile? Well, I’ve been following him on Twitter and Instagramand have been able to catch up with any news he has wanted to share abouthis life and career. I'm always updated about his project and plans. 
You say that’s not actually an effort for a real RA admirer? OK, let’s find something more … tasty to tell you.
Just last night I fell asleep caressed by his soothing, velvety voice...For hours in the dark ofmy bedroom, comfortably lying in my bed,I …  no, I was not dreaming, I was really listening to his voice. I was actually listening  to his brilliant reading of The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner.  In fact, in the latest weeks I got a review copy ofthe ebook first and of the audiobook after.I’m due to feature both on my other blog, My Jane Austen Book Club, on June 1st.
After listening to Ms Jenner say in a talk about the book that her Dr Gray was written with Richard Armitage in her mind, listening to the story read by Richard Armitage himself and figuring out one ofits most charming protagonists as tall, dark, blue-eyed and handsoome has been athrilling experience. It’s such a lovely story! It reminded me of one of my favoutite book about books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, butwith the addition of my beloved Austen’s world! I hope The Jane Austen Societymay become a lovely movie soon and, in that case, I really wish Richard Armitage may be Dr Gray on screen.
For more about the story and the audiobook I’ll wait for you on My Jane Austen Book Club on June 1st. Meanwhile, you can listen to a sample of Richard’s work HEREor preorder it HERE.
What? All this sound just like coincidence? Me blogging about everything Austen-related and bumping into an audiobook read by the man HIMSELF by chance?Not proof enough of my being a true, worthy admirer? Well, I believe any coincidence has a soul so I think all this was meant to be and well connected by destiny. 
From Dr Gray to Dr Astrov


Now,  let’s see, what more can I tell you? I’ve also seen The Stranger on Netflix as soon as it came out and in only two days. Can that count in my favour? Still not enough? Well, then, what about flying from Rome to London just to see him on stage?
That sounds slightly better, I knew it! I should have told you about this before. But here we are, last but not least, I'm ready to share a few memories of mytrip to London in January,right on Brexit Day and on the verge of a pandemic.
Honestly, I’m not an actual fan of Checkovand his theatre,but it was not the first time Richard Armitage had me convert to a new faith. Now, I did not really joined a new faith for his sake but, as I used to say on my RA-Fridays, he has again contributed to widen my horizon. As in the past I read and saw things that I would have never read or seen if it wasn't for Richard Armitage (see Strike Back or The Hobbit), I came to appreciate the adaptation of Checkov's Uncle Vanya. 
After decades from my first unenthusiastic reading of some plays by the Russian playwritgh for my Theatre exam at university, at the end of 2019 I started rereading Uncle Vanya, booked tickets and flight, and joined my friends for a weekend in London at the end of January 2020.
And , after years from The Crucible experience back in 2014, watching Richard Armitage live on stage and briskly meeting him at the stage door wasagain a very exciting experience. His role in Uncle Vanya, Dr Astrov, was,  maybe, less powerful than his John Proctor, but it was more poetical and romantic, philosophical and visionary.
Our night at the Harold Pinter Theatrewas blessed by the presence of Ralph Fiennes in the audience, sitting just a couple of rows in front of us, and by the extreme kindness of all the actors we met at the stage door after the show: Richard Armitage as well as Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and Peter Wight.
Back to reality
It was - and probably will also remain for a while -  my last very happy night. Scary news of Coronavirus were already spreading and reaching us from China while we were there. I can't forget how worried I was waiting for my flight back at Heathrow International Airport, it was awkward and worrying enough.
In those days, everything was planned for me to go back to the UK with my students in March and, also,  my friends and I had started gathering ideas for our usual summer tour together. But all our plans (and much more)were marred by Covid-19 and in the latest months I have spent most of my life working in front of a screen inside my home.
Like RA from his own home studio inside his claustrofobic wardrobe, I’ve been very productive, completely involved in my complicated task of carrying on teaching my 6 different class groups, 116 students, from home. It has helped me be focused on something important and avoid being caught in nightmarish,negative thoughts, but it has left me rather exhausted.
Slowly we have started to go out again here in Italy, respecting social distancing and with all the necessary precautions. Schools are still closed,  but the school leaving exams for my oldest students will be held at the presence of a committee of teachers and I’m due to be back from mid-June.
How have you all been coping? Being in touch with my family, my friends and many lovely people from all over the world thanks to technology and the Net,   finding a safe place in books, movies and TV series, has truly helped me through these difficult weeks.  What about you?
Take care and stay safe wherever you are. Huge virtual hugs. Maria Grazia

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