Friday 26 July 2013

Theatre review: Sea Wall

A couple of years ago Simon Stephens wrote Sea Wall especially for Andrew Scott and it played for a handful of performances at the Bush and in Edinburgh. A 30-minute monologue performed by a little-known actor, it understandably wasn't going to find a huge audience, so its main run was brief and I missed it - although I did watch the filmed version that was released last year. Now, Scott's increased visibility since his love/hate appearances on Sherlock means the play can have another brief lease of life at the NT's Shed, where it's having a limited run as a late show. Scott plays the amiable, easily distracted Alex, who has brought us here to share - very enthusiastically - his thoughts about two of his favourite people: His young daughter, and his eccentric, ex-soldier father-in-law, whom Alex and his family regularly visit for holidays in the South of France. It's a funny, likeable story of playful arguing and philosophising, and of course like the sea wall of the title it's going to plunge abruptly into a dark and terrifying place.

The story Alex tells is a domestic tragedy but actually this isn't what Sea Wall is about in the final analysis: It's actually a confession or apology for something he describes as the cruellest thing he's ever done; something he said that, even in a speech entirely focused on it, he's unable to say out loud again.

I've already reviewed Sea Wall in its filmed form but it's a privilege to get to see Scott perform it live (in a standing room-only performance.) The actor wanders around the stage as the audience enter, the house lights remain on throughout, all helping the effect that Stephens has so well tailored to his abilities: The impression of an incredibly relaxed, happy performance that's hiding the pain so effectively that it's devastating when it slaps you in the face. Once again Scott can effortlessly send the hairs at the back of your neck on end, and hopefully this return to the stage after a couple of years' absence will remind him to revisit it a bit more - he's one of the most electric stage actors out there at the moment.

Sea Wall by Simon Stephens is booking until the 2nd of August at the National Theatre's Shed (returns and day seats only.) The film version is still available for download.

Running time: 30 minutes straight through.

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant review, I agree with every single thing you said. I saw the final performance on Friday and Andrew Scott was utterly electrifying. So glad I was able to get tickets for it!