Review: The disappointing A Small Family Business at the National Theatre
Review: Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse

Review: Andrew Scott turns rock star in Simon Stephens Birdland at the Royal Court

700x650.fitBirdland is a night of rock stars for this theatre fan and @Polyg too I imagine. You see Simon Stephens is a rock star playwright for us and Andrew Scott is a rock star actor and the play is about a rock star.

Andrew Scott plays Paul who's playing to crowds of 75,000. He's reaching the end of a 15 month world tour where one country and hotel blends into another and there seems to be only two states of being: performing and waiting to perform.

Paul hasn't so much been corrupted by fame as badly tainted by it.

"I walk into a room. Far more people know who I am than I could possible know and after a while that does start to get a little disorientating."

He's a cash cow for so many people it's got to the stage where they won't refuse him anything and that money and influence is corrosive. He's living a surreal life and losing his grip on the real world. Money means nothing anymore other than being his answer to everything. Buy something to make himself feel empowered, buy things for others to make them feel better or like him or to impress. Buy things because he can and what else is there to do in between gig?

There are drugs and alcohol too - always the best and purest of course - but these are just part of the landscape.

Paul is a cock. Actually he's something stronger than that and he does admit it a couple of times when he manages to pull back to himself for a moment. The adulation and constant attention has made it difficult for him to make social and moral judgements. He is offensive and destructive when it comes to relationships and friendships.

And this is part of the genius of the piece. Paul is extremely unlikeable and yet you can't help but feel a bit of empathy. It is subtly done. On the surface Paul's life is all gigs and parties and fancy hotels and women throwing themselves at him. The reality is in the throw away lines such as having to throw up before going on stage and fleeting references to his strange life.

There are also the periodical camera flashes, the isolation yet never really being alone and being paraded in front of sponsors. It all starts adding up to a sorry person and, for all it's glamour, a grubby life.

The abstract staging and actors doubling with little or no costume changes adds to the disorientation of Paul's life. And the audience is complicit. When he looks down on the 'gathering crowds' outside his hotel he makes eye contact and smiles at his fans. He waved at me and of course I waved back.

Needless to say Andrew Scott is sublime and we are treated to some cool rock star moves (he really needs to have a dance off with Ben Whishaw). It seemed appropriate in a ironic way that he was showered with red roses at the curtain call by a fan sat in the circle slips.

Birdland runs at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre downstairs until May 31 and I can't wait to see it again next month.


Do I really need to spell this one out?