WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Old Vic
WHEN: 21/6, runs to 30/6/18
RUN TIME: 30 minutes
Andrew Scott won our 2017 Best Theatre Actor monsta for his lead role in Hamlet (Almedia and Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End) and follows it up with a revival of this Simon Stephens monologue at the Old Vic.
- Read on for reasons including how Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Zawe Ashton & Ian Hislop featured
It’s the 1st time it has played in a 1,000-seater venue like this and Scott tells us in the rehearsal room Q&A afterwards that this adds to its impact.
Sea Wall is a 30-minute monologue which tells the story of a dad on holiday with his eight-year-old daughter, wife and her father.
Scott explains later that what he likes about the piece (1st performed in south west London’s Bush Theatre a decade ago) is that the two men at its heart love each other but a tragic event makes his character behave cruelly to his father in law.
He explains that things are often seen as very binary these days and sometimes it is important to understand different points of view.
The audience is ushered into the theatre 15 minutes before the action begins and Scott is there to greet us, quite literally, pacing the stage, but also making eye contact with those who enter the auditorium.
His cheery demeanour – at one point the audience is encouraged to shout out the word ‘scrubs’ – means that when the darkness and pain pours out that the switch in tone is all the more devastating.
We can hear quiet sobbing in the audience all around us as this piece reaches its conclusion and there’s one section, wordless for a longer period than we were expecting, which can’t help but make those around us complicit in what is unfolding.
Sea Wall is certainly the most affecting of Stephens’ plays we’ve seen and we can see why it was written for Scott because it is all the more powerful in its conclusion because of the easy but, as we learn later, enforced breeziness of its opening.
We spy Zawe Ashton and Ian Hislop in the audience and Phoebe Waller-Bridge sits behind us and even asks a Q&A question.
The Old Vic has already enjoyed great acclaim with its One Voice series and the appearance of Scott in this revival goes to show why the venue’s variety is very much its current strength.