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Thursday 23 November 2017

Review: Sea Wall

PROJECT ARTS CENTRE > CHRIS WASSER

Andrew Scott
Andrew Scott

I don't do messiness at the theatre.

A punch in the gut is one thing, but Andrew Scott's Alex is different. Alex was just a man who made us smile with stories about his holiday in France. Marrying Helen, the love of his life; meeting the father-in-law, Arthur; the birth of his daughter, Lucy; the odd anecdote about his work as a freelance photographer and so on.

His is about as natural a monologue as we've ever come across. This is how real people talk. It only takes 15 minutes, but that's more than enough time to form an attachment.

Which is why, when the 'incident' comes up, Alex's subtle yet shattering shift from happy family man to broken-hearted father leaves us well and truly devastated.

A tears-rolling-down-cheeks, heavy-breathing, can't-pull-ourselves-together kinda mess.

Scott is a bona-fide heavyweight of Irish acting, best known for his BAFTA-winning portrayal of the villainous Moriarty in Sherlock (and soon to be seen in the upcoming Bond movie, Spectre).

Simon Stephens wrote Sea Wall in just three weeks after holidaying in France with his family. He wrote it for Scott. It comes as little surprise that this exquisite, 30-minute play pieces together so beautifully.

There is nothing particularly fussy or flashy about Scott's performance. Alex is an ordinary guy, and Andrew might as well be speaking off the cuff, but my goodness, it is mesmerising.

No lighting effects, no proper stage; just a bloke staring us in the eye, talking about his life. Note to aspiring playwrights/actors - that's how you get people emotionally invested in a character. You make them real.

That Sea Wall packs so much light, shade, intimacy and depth into such a short running-length without feeling rushed or incomplete is a testament to both Stephens' magnificent script and Scott's layered, extraordinarily touching portrayal.

And that's all it takes for Scott and his audience to lose control over their emotions. Indeed, Sea Wall isn't just a one-man show - it's a master class in writing and presentation. Take a bow, lads.

Running until Saturday HHHHH

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