I can hardly believe it myself but, yes, I’ve seen James McAvoy LIVE on stage and have even met him afterwards! Now he’s got an even more special place in my heart and my admiration for his acting skills couldn’t be greater!
The play The Ruling Class
The Ruling Class was written by Peter Barnes in the late 1960s and deals with the upper class (hence the name of the play) in England. It hasn’t been staged since 1969, and so – even though it originated in the 1960s – it has a really fresh feel to it. It is about an aristocratic family and their attempts to avoid the heritage of the late 13th Earl of Gurney to go to his son, the 14th Earl of Gurney, Jack (James McAvoy). Why? Well, he’s been (voluntarily) institutionalized for last seven years – for paranoid schizophrenia. And what makes the whole thing especially funny (at least for a while), is that he believes he’s God and tells people to call him „J. C.“. When being asked how he knows he’s God, he says: „Simple. When I pray to Him I find I’m talking to myself.“ This is just one of numerous funny lines – and James delivers them perfectly and with such delight that he had me entranced from the moment he came on stage in the habit of a Franciscan monk, smiling beatifically and speaking in a very soft, melodic voice that I’d never heard from him before. I felt like I was utterly under his spell! James exuded such an energy and versatilty – no wonder that he has had all the critics in a rave:
[James McAvoy’s] Jack Gurney is by turns charming[…] and even more chilling than his Macbeth here last season; his smile can charm you across a flowery meadow or make you resolve never to risk walking down a darkened alley with him.
… the piece has a juicy lead role that Peter O’Toole played on screen with mercurial fervour. Following in his footsteps, James McAvoy lends Jamie Lloyd’s revival a no less astonishing physical bravura. […] the play is held together by McAvoy’s mesmerising performance.
Whatever you think of Peter Barnes’s riotously funny-peculiar assault on the English upper class and their deranged tendencies – not seen in the West End since its 1969 premiere – you have to chalk McAvoy’s performance down as one of the year’s must-sees. […] McAvoy has tremendous, infectious fun as this charismatic holy fool, a role taken by Peter O’Toole in the 1972 film version. Eyes glinting with mischief, smiling beatifically, he takes Barnes’s luxuriantly freewheeling speeches at often breath-taking speed so that even when they jump the rails of sense, we’re still hooked.
From the moment he appears on stage, […] a wave of expectation floods the audience. Then, […] declares himself to be… God. And a God of Love at that. He looks directly into the audience, eyes blazing, smile compelling and the sheer magnetic power of his presence is quite astonishing. He is utterly believable as a God – he has never looked better or been more overwhelmingly appealing.
This is a break-through performance from McAvoy (who was no slouch as Macbeth or as one of the leads in Three Days Of Rain) and one that makes this production unmissable. It is almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the present generation of actors doing what McAvoy does here as the 14th Earl of Gurney – astonishingly detailed and accomplished work of the highest order.
It’s really difficult to find words that are even more enthusiastic, but I just have to say that my enormously high expectations – due to skimming through those reviews – were not only met but exceeded! Just a few minutes – or rather: seconds – after he had appeared on stage, I was already looking forward to the second viewing (I had a ticket for the Matinee performance the following day), congratulating myself on having bought two tickets.
Even though I most enjoyed the first act, which is, for the most part, just loads of fun, I also marveled at how James managed to portray the darker side of Jack, believing now that he’s Jack the Ripper (and acting accordingly).
But I’ve forgotten to mention that James SINGS, DANCES, PLAYS THE FLUTE and RIDES A UNICYCLE in his UNDERWEAR! 🙂 This is so unlike ANYthing that you’ve seen from him – I just couldn’t believe my eyes (and ears). I thought that I had seen his finest moments as an actor in Filth, but he simply blew me away with this captivating performance. I truly hope that he will return to the stage again and again, because his talents are showcased there even more than on film.
The fangirl moment
So, as you can see, I was already highly excited and incredibly happy after seeing the play. Now, my friend and I headed to the stage door, in high hopes of getting an autograph and maybe even having a photo taken with him. James had said in the Graham Norton Show that he would take care of his fans, plus, I had seen pictures on Twitter of him posing with fans for photos, so we were positive that we would be successful. (I can’t begin to express how nervous I had been in the weeks before my trip to London after I had seen that he even has his picture taken!!!)
There were a number of girls and women (I didn’t see any men 😉 ) already waiting there, but not quite as many as last year when I saw Martin Freeman. So it seemed as if would be a quite relaxed affair. However, when James came out, everyone pushed forward and tried to be the first. He had to ask people to leave some room for his colleagues to get through – twice. I was a bit disappointed that he had to repeat this, and so was he, you could tell. Still, he was very patient and polite, had his picture taken with everyone who wanted it and gave autographs.
THEN it was my turn! I had brought the DVD-Cover of Filth for him to sign, because that was the movie that had made me realize his true greatness (boy, that sounds a bit cheesy). So I asked him whether he would sign it, since this film was what had made me come to see him play. He thanked me for that – and, of course, signed it.
Then I thought „our“ moment had passed and I had missed the photo opportunity. But my friend, who didn’t want a photo herself but had agreed to take one of me, encouraged me and so I asked him if he would also take a photo with me, which he did, although he had already moved to the next fan. Here’s the result (I’ve got in on the lock screen of my iPhone) 🙂 :
I am truly grateful that James was so patient and nice to his fans. You could tell that he was pretty exhausted from the play but, nevertheless, he was there for everyone of us. When my friend took our picture, for a split-second there I wanted to put my arms around him – almost like a reflex – but then I didn’t because I didn’t want to be too „greedy“ and I didn’t want him to regret his friendliness.
Thanks a lot, James, for creating unforgettable memories – both on stage and at the stage door! 🙂