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Review: Andrew Scott made me cry in The Shed (the superb Sea Wall)

Sea_Wall_1024x576Commissioned by Josie Rourke in 2008 when she was artistic director at the Bush, Simon Stephens was given three weeks to write a 30 min play, for one actor.

The endeavour coincided with an email from Andrew Scott and so he became the physical embodiment of Alex, the Sea Wall's character. It was essentially written for him.

This revival at the National Theatre's intimate temporary space, The Shed, is playing for just one week at 10 pm and it is a shame more people won't get to see it because it is an exceptional piece.

It is best not to know too much about the story just that Scott plays Alex, who is a husband, father and son-in-law.

Stephen's script delivers something that is both cleverly structured - artful is how PolyG described it - and yet so natural. In Andrew Scott's hands it has tremendous warmth and humour and yet there is something highly charged, something quite raw.

He develops a close relationship with the audience as if he's telling his story to each person individually. He draws you in, freed from the distraction of sets, fancy costumes and lighting he has you hanging on his every word which can be quite unsettling at times. And, such is his performance that what goes unsaid hangs like an oppressive weight.

There is one of those very special and rare theatre moments when a pause is so pregnant it felt like the audience collectively held its breath. The tension was palpable, as was the whirring of a 100 or so minds as they grappled with filling in the blanks.

Sea Wall is at once and the same such an extraordinary and ordinary story. The ordinary becoming extraordinarily pertinent with the irony of hindsight. It is about man's struggle with the question of god, about what we don't know and what we did know. It's about loss.

I left the theatre feeling shattered having seen a man completely broken in just 30 minutes; no, not seen, felt a man being broken. That is the power of this piece as performed by Andrew Scott.

Sea Wall is on at The Shed until Aug 2 and day seats are available and you can read Poly's thoughts here.

If you can't get a ticket look up the version Scott did as a piece to camera which is online and you can watch it for the princely sum of £3.50. (The trailer is free). There is also a whole collection of interviews with Simon Stephen's and Andrew Scott.


Cock (the play, that is)

Other plays I've seen Andrew Scott in (aside from Cock):

Design for Living, Old Vic

Emporer and The Galilean, National Theatre