Damianista’s note: I wrote this post just after the closing night of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? back in 2017! While it feels like yesterday, I published it more than two years ago — so it deserves a Throwback Thursday. ENJOY!
Well, 12 weeks were gone with the wind and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? has now closed. And, as if we need another reason to celebrate Damian’s work, I would love to take the closing of The Goat as a unique opportunity to celebrate 12 weeks of Damian Lewis on stage. Please enjoy our Fan Fun Goat Party from previews to media appearances to jam sessions to stage door experiences!
Before the previews started, Damian was a guest on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 answering questions about why he is putting himself into this — doing a play — again, because it’s terrifying, isn’t it?
“Yeah, we’re in crack week. You know, Week 3… When we’re turning a quite good play into something quite terrible.
I’m doing it because, I think, to be serious for a second, I think theatre is important, Chris, and, I think, the coming together and sharing a story with a live audience, and you’re fresh and new minted every night is an exciting, congregational experience that we don’t have in our lives as much anymore.”
Evans then asks about what he calls “the preview malarkey.” If you read the play, and like it, and you like the director, and you rehearse it, why do you do “previews” in the actual theatre in front of live audiences several times before the opening night? Why don’t you go from rehearsals directly to the real run?
That is what Damian has to say about previews:
“You basically spend a lot of psychological energy convincing yourself that that’s all you’re going to do, that is you’re going to continue to reveal this work of art, this play, and it will continue to reveal itself and it will only ever be a work in progress and none of us feel the pressure of the press night — when the press come in, judge you, and then write personal things about you the next day in the national press.
So that is the sort of psychological trick you play on yourself, of course it’s all nonsense and you know you’re like a hamster on a wheel, you know, just furiously paddling to try to get it ready in time.
But what has started to happen here, which they do a bit on Broadway, is that they bring the press in now over two or three nights so the press night itself — the pressure is taken off. But now you run the risk then of a journalist coming in three days, basically, before you feel ready.”
It is probably an actor’s nightmare to get sick days before the opening night, and Damian catches an awful cold, being passed round the cast and crew, only a few days before the opening night. He ends up in an emergency room only to find out he has a great big hole in his ear drum. Being the true trooper that he is, Damian goes on stage, but he admits, after the performance, there were difficult moments.
Well, it seems even that awful cold could not meddle with Damian’s brilliant performance! We have a good compilation of the fantastic reviews here and love to share a few of our favorites below…
Michael Billington of The Guardian:
“Lewis perfectly captures Martin’s initial unease, as he absent-mindedly rubs his thigh with his glasses and looks through rather than at people. The high point comes, though, when he admits to the terrifying solitude that comes from being a sexual outlaw in a society where love has strict parameters.”
Paul Taylor of The Independent:
“Damian Lewis (of Homeland fame) gives the performance of his life. He’s the still-preppy-after-all-these-years pedant who corrects other people’s grammar (“whom!”) even as he gingerly reveals his, erm, pet perversion. And he’s as much the butt of demonic possession as any Euripidean protagonist. He opens his wallet and shyly takes out a passport photo of the goat, which he hands round as if she were the young lovely he was squiring to her first prom.”
— The Goat Play (@thegoatplay) April 24, 2017
Elvis Jam Session
Well, if you give Damian a piano, he plays it! The piano on stage in The Goat is no exception. This little moment with Damian and Archie jamming to Elvis is PRICELESS. Thank you Nicole Charles for sharing it!
— Nicole Charles (@NicolefcCharles) April 14, 2017
During the run, Damian also made a few media appearances.
He talked to Andrew Marr on BBC1 about The Goat as well as about Billions. You can see the interview in its entirety here.
Then he did a FUN Guardian WebChat and answered a number of questions on different topics. I was thrilled that he gave a very detailed answer to my question and it turns out Damian did not know who asked what and answered my question just because he thought it was a good one. I am flattered, thank you!
Me: Why did you choose The Goat for your return to the West End stage?”
Damian: “I think The Goat is a modern American classic. I think it’s a play about love and tolerance, and I think an exploration of different expressions of love, different manifestations of love, and what we’re prepared to tolerate and accept seemed apt for now. We’re surrounded by examples of rejection at the moment, on the macro, and on the micro level. A retrenching; a resurgence of nationalism. I think there’s a degree on unease, of uncertainty around – I think that always makes people feel anxious. I think building bridges with Europe is preferable to taking them down, but we’ll have to see what it means in actual terms over the next couple of years. I resent the amount of political time, space and money it’s going to take up – I think that’s unnecessary. In terms of what’s going on in America, whilst it can be frustrating when we feel politicians don’t say anything of consequence, or seem to obfuscate always, we’ve seen how damaging and dangerous it can be when someone uses language irresponsibly. And we’ve seen it really does matter what you say. Words have power; they are what give meaning to our experience. It’s how we understand, shape and recount our experiences, collectively. Which is another reason this play is so good to do right now, because in it, words are used as weapons. Language is of paramount importance in the play. There’s a pedantry in the play about language and how it should be used. It should be used with precision. The Goat, as a metaphor, represents other. For Albee it was his own homosexuality as a young man in the 1950s, but it can be taken to mean anything that we don’t understand or are ignorant of.
It’s also a brilliant theatrical experience, both to perform and to watch – it’s laceratingly funny, sad, and totally absurd at times.”
The way Damian connects The Goat not just to love and tolerance but also to politics — from Brexit to American presidential elections to use of words as weapons — is fascinating and attests to both Albee’s brilliance and The Goat’s timeliness.
We all know Damian has a generous heart. During The Goat run, he made time for philantropic efforts.
Firstly, he backed Evening Standard’s “Evening Stand Up” campaign to encourage Londoners to get involved with their Red Nose Day initiative and have a laugh for the cause. Damian also shares with Evening Standard about who makes him laugh the most. Any guesses?
“My wife makes me laugh a lot. [Our humour] is very dry. Very cut and thrust. I’m not always sure it is a joke. Or who is being laughed at, in fact.”
Being the sportsman that he is, Damian also made time for a trip to Wentworth Club in Sussex to play in the BMW PGA Golf Championship Pro-Am! He tweeted the news that his team got the silver cup 😀
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) May 24, 2017
You can find more pictures from the golf tournament here.
The annoying cell phones
We first got the news on Twitter…
…then Damian talked about it very openly on Guardian WebChat!
Question: As a theatre goer, I absolutely hate the noise made by sweet packets. Does it annoy you as an actor, or are you able to completely block out distractions?
Masterclass or “Goad, Lacerate, Raise Whirlwinds.”
Damian also took the time to give a free masterclass for young actors aged 16 – 30, as part of the Masterclass, the brilliant in-house charity of the Royal Theatre Haymarket for the last 19 years.
Social media was our eyes and ears for the masterclass, and here is a selection of tweets showing that young actors genuinely enjoyed the masterclass and the adjectives they used for the class include “awesome”, “enlightening”, “brilliant”, “inspiring”, “insightful” and “motivating.”
Awesome masterclass today with @lewis_damian! Insightful and inspiring from start to finish. Ready to goad, lacerate and raise whirlwinds!
— Gareth Morgan (@GMorgan04) June 6, 2017
— Vic Avery (@Vic_Avery) June 6, 2017
— Larissa Jayne Oates (@LarissaOates3) June 6, 2017
— Angus Woodward (@AngusWoodward) June 6, 2017
The “pee break”
Towards the end of the 12 week run, there was a small fire in the theatre that they had to evacuate in the middle of the play. If you wanna Damian giving a hilarious explanation, swipe until the end! Gotta LOVE that guy!
Damian also entertained guests who came to see The Goat — be it a Tottenham Hotspur football star, American magicians or Hollywood A-List actors!
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) June 17, 2017
Had my old pal John Goodman in to see the play last night. Had so much fun with him on American Buffalo…
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) June 17, 2017
And, almost after every performance, Damian made time for fans at stage door signing programs, tickets and taking selfies! Here is a sweet collage I put together with fan photos I collected from social media — take a look, maybe you will find yourself there! BIG thanks for sharing the pictures on Twitter and Instagram!
All fans in this fandom are special. But I want to highlight a few stage door experiences with fans that have had special relationships with Fan Fun over the almost two and a half years we have been live!
Then from left to right…
Carolin! She is a wonderful fan from Germany whom I was very happy to meet that very night at the theater. I am not giving details not to spoil Carolin’s wonderful fan story which you will read tomorrow.
Rachel! I knew she was a brilliant fan from London, but I now also know she is a true friend! Rachel gave Damian the paper he holds that says HELLO to lovely Krista, another brilliant fan, who has not been able to see The Goat. This is one of the most beautiful gestures I have ever seen in my life. Hats off, Rachel!
Cynthia! If you have read her incredible fan story, you already know she “discovered” Damian in Hamlet on Broadway in 1995! Cynthia, 22 years later, did not only see Damian on stage again and but also shared her story with him! How cool is that?
And my lovely Tsvetanka! Well, even though she saw the play three times, she was too shy to go to stage door… until a certain “enabler” started to work on her… I am happy to report Tsvetanka finally took her chance on the last day of the show. She was still too shy to ask for a photo but got a lovely autograph! 🙂
Well, Damian was super kind for making time for us backstage and we were super excited to give him a surprise gift! In case you missed it, JaniaJania wrote that story here.
And the most beautiful gift came in the form of a hand-carved goat which Alison had to leave at stage door for Damian. Remembering that Damian told on Desert Island Discs that Helen gave him a whittling knife as a gift, I cannot help fantasize him whittling a Martin for this Sylvia 😀
— Alison Delaney (@nibblingnature) June 19, 2017
The fantastic photos Archie Madekwe shared on Twitter speak a thousand words — you can feel that The Goat team had as much a good time as we the viewers did! Thank you all for bringing The Goat to life and, in particular, to the Fab Four for the acting feast. STANDING OVATION!
— Archie Madekwe (@archmadekwe) June 25, 2017
Finally, we cannot thank you enough, Damian, for your time and making us feel special. We sincerely, and a bit selfishly, cannot wait for your happy return to stage. And, hmm, it would not hurt if you came to Broadway next time! 😀
UPDATE 06/28/2017: We are over the moon that Damian tweeted to us thanking for this very post. It is not that we are expecting anything in return but his sweet gesture is everything. Thank you, Damian!
Thank you for this wonderful retrospective of a fabulous twelve weeks in the West End.
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) June 28, 2017