Second trip to Birdland at the Royal Court, post-show Q&A, and You ‘re Not as Tall As You Look by Chris Thorpe

Andrew Scott and Alex Price during the Q&A. Photo courtesy of @cumberbatchweb

Andrew Scott and Alex Price during the Q&A. Photo courtesy of @cumberbatchweb

Wednesday evening saw my return trip to Simon Stephens’ Birdland, Every few months, I have a play or production that ignites the imagination and thus repeat viewings are inevitable. Furthermore, this is the only way to fully experience theatre: once is often a necessity but it’s not a preference. Productions are living things, if it’s impractical to be there every night, it doesn’t mean they stay still without our presence (professional critics often seem to forget that).

It’s fun trying to decipher what changed with time (There will be SPOILERS for the rest of the post, so please don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled): Paul felt more deliberately cruel than in the previous performance. Louis – the superfan – is now holding a magnifying glass when he is meeting Paul. At one point David (the manager) puts drops to Paul’s eyes. At the same time, one of the actresses is at the roof and dropping marbles on a metal bowl held by another actress standing below, thus mimicking the eye-dropping action (and creating a loud clanking sound). On Wednesday night, the actress missed the bowl and the marble rolled all the way to the front of the stage and sank in the water. Some things are the same but now I am able to focus on them differently: I love how the set exposes the backstage area all the way to the exterior wall. When Johnny leaves through the fire escape, he exits directly into the street.

The post show talk was lovely and intimate: Continue reading

Review: Simon Stephens’ Birdland (starring Andrew Scott) at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs

Andrew Scott as Paul. Photo Richard Hubert Smith

Andrew Scott as Paul. Photo Richard Hubert Smith

After watching Simon Stephens’ Birdland, I jotted down a few words as a reminder of my first reaction: death, His Dark Materials, Neil Young, drowning not waving, pink and yellow, you can never go home, anti-vampire, thick black. Reading them, I hope they convey some of the play’s excitement, if not the lucidity and precision and sheer confidence with which this world unfolds.

Paul is losing his mind. It’s not the indulgence or the pampering. It’s the absence of an internal life, extinguished by the constant gaze of others. Paul doesn’t know who he is because all others do. He is the anti-vampire, his reflection everywhere, more real than the real thing. He lies like he tells the truth, and he tells the truth like he lies. Death courts him by the sheer absence of life. He tries to transcend himself, but some time somewhere he crossed a line and he can’t go back.

Paul and Johnny. Johnny and Paul. Johnny escapes the gaze, can go for a walk, fall in love. Johnny still knows home. Their friendship survives everything but them being together. In one scene, they are as close as they will ever be, just before they explode apart. Continue reading

Photo of the Week: Andrew Scott in Original Sin – 2002 (with added fantasy casting for Angels in America)

Andrew Scott as Angel in Original Sin. 2002 Sheffield Crucible. Photo Simon Walker

Andrew Scott as Angel in Original Sin. 2002 Sheffield Crucible. Photo Simon Walker

We are only a few weeks away from the first performances of Simon Stephens’ Birdland at the Royal Court. So much excitement riding on this: Andrew Scott in a Simon Stephens play (Sea Wall anyone?) directed by Carrie Cracknell. No pressure but anything less than superlative might be a disappointment.

This is not Andrew Scott’s first theatrical appearance since he played Moriarty (there is no way around it, for certain actors in certain roles there is before and after). He always stuck very close to the stage, all the way back to his native Ireland and Abbey theatre. My first introduction to his talents was at a Royal Court rehearsed reading in early 2009. (I had to look it up but the play was The Uncertainty Of The Situation (Die Unsicherheit der Sachlage) by Philipp Loehle. The cast – take a deep breath – included Katherine Parkinson, Jeff Rawle, Paul Ready, Samuel West). Once I saw him on stage, I always kept tabs, I wanted to have that rush again.

But this was seven years after he played Angel in Peter Gill’s Original Sin, after Frank Wedekind’s Lulu. The production premiered in Sheffield Crucible with mixed reviews but I can’t help to feel bawled over by its subject matter: “Angel, a spell-bindingly beautiful boy is plucked from the streets to be the plaything of a wealthy newspaper proprietor. Continue reading

Review: Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall, starring Andrew Scott, at the Shed – National Theatre

Sea_Wall Andrew Scott reviewSome reviews start with a memory: four years ago, at the Bush Library – an open space with stacks of books all over, the same space occupied by the Bush Theatre today, expect without walls, or proper seating or playtexts for wallpaper in the toilets – I saw Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall. I remember entering and two things were worth noting: even though it was ten minutes before the start, Andrew Scott was already pacing on stage and Ben Whishaw was in the audience. And then it started. And many more things were worth noting and remembering and in the end it went down as one of my best (distinct, powerful) experiences at the theatre.

How does the production at the Shed compare with that memory? On the minus side, I knew what was coming (whatever you do, don’t read spoilers). On the plus side, I knew what was coming (somewhere in the first ten minutes, my heart started pounding while the story was about packing for holidays and travel arrangements). Which is the genius of Simon Stephens’ text, and Andrew Scott’s performance and George Perrin’s direction: it’s artful and skilled in not being artful at all, playing out as real life, when a split second of a moment, without an explanation or a calling card or a lesson, punches you in the stomach and leaves you drowning and unable to make sense of anything for the rest of your life. Continue reading

A Curious Night at the Theatre – Part Two, when Christopher meets Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott

Chris Martin at the Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Luke Treadaway, hope he doesn't mind I am using it

Chris Martin at the Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Luke Treadaway, hope he doesn’t mind I am using it

Continued from Part One

Christopher met Q at a secret location in the South Bank (if you don’t go to the theatre, it looked like a secret location. Otherwise, it looked like the National). They talked about viruses, and integrating the lines of radiant and whether you can dig someone if they are not a garden. Q rememebered Moriarty from the time they were together in Mike Bartlett’s Cock and sent Christopher on his way with a flirty “any time, cowboy”.

And back to school where Christopher said goodbye to Jude, heartbroken and disheartened not to have a future with Siobhan. And coming home one day, just like that, Christopher found Moriarty in his living room, cocky (not just because of Mike Bartlett’s Cock) and arrogant and a little bit sexy. Moriarty agreed to let Christopher mess with his computer on one condition: that Christopher can get hundreds of people to sit in one room and switch off their phones in order to engage in a metaphor (which is really a story). A little bit like a play. And here we are. Continue reading

A Curious Night at the Theatre starring Christopher, the Doctor, Q, the Queen & Moriarty (& a guy called Jude Law)

Parental guidance: I don’t intend to take a measured approach with this post. Be warned of breathless and shameless enthusiasm. I am told it’s called squee. I wouldn’t know.

Jude Law and Christopher (Luke Treadaway) on stage at A Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Ellie Kurttz

Jude Law and Christopher (Luke Treadaway) on stage at A Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Ellie Kurttz

When a show overruns by 75 minutes, it finishes at close to three hours without interval and no one complains, you know it’s a rare experience. A Curious Night at the Theatre was always destined to be, well, curious: part theatre, part live concert, part charity event, it could all have gone very wrong. In the end, it delivered on all counts: A funny play, party atmosphere, surprises, confetti and £100,000 raised. The curious night was something of a special night.

First things first, it’s theatre after all and there is a new play by Mark Haddon and Simon Stephens: a detective story for Christopher, where he is contacted by the Doctor and entrusted with an important mission: Moriarty – who, as the Doctor admits, looks suspiciously like Andrew Scott – has developed a computer virus and all people coming in contact with it will lose the ability to understand metaphors. “You, and only you Christopher, can rescue the metaphor.” Christopher is hesitant: “Why me?”. “No, no, no” says the Doctor, “the virus started working already”. Christopher doesn’t trust metaphors, which are lies after all, but is convinced to help. The Doctor calls the Queen and, amid some giggling and old fashioned flirting, gets Christopher an invitation to the Buckingham palace. The Queen has, after all, the best contacts.

Continue reading

Review: Harold Pinter shorts at Trafalgar studios, with Andrew Scott and Joanna Lumley

Pinter shorts reviewOne of the interesting aspects of the Jamie Lloyd season at the Trafalgar studios is the additional events running alongside each production: for Macbeth, one-off readings of Scottish plays were performed. With The Hothouse, there is a series of talks and the performance of two Harold Pinter radio plays in front of an audience. When actors such as Andrew Scott, Joanna Lumley and Alun Armstrong are involved, it’s not hard to imagine keen interest. Indeed, there was a full house on Saturday afternoon for the last of three performances of two Pinter shorts, Family Voices and Victoria Station.

I make no secret that I love readings. Some times readings will free performers in ways a production can’t. At Trafalgar studios, in a large and sprawling auditorium, the performance consisted of nothing more than the actors in front of the microphone and a sound technician in a console at Roote’s desk. (We joked beforehand how versatile that desk is). Pinter’s language, with no production to back it up, or rather get in the way, shone for its poetry, double-edged humour, clarity and the sheer delight of the perfect combination of words in any one sentence. Continue reading

Podcasts and Audio content relating to theatre – the Definitive List

(And by “definitive” I mean the ones I like).

I love audio content of any description. Audio content plus theatre combines two of my favourite things, and this is a quick rundown of theatre podcasts (or rather audio content relating to theatre) that I visit on a regular basis. The order is random, so make sure you go through the whole list as some of the gems are right at the end. Continue reading

In Praise of Rehearsed Readings

I always wanted to do a blog post about rehearsed readings and with the new season of Playwrights’ Playwright at the Duke of York’s, this is the perfect opportunity.

Straight to the point, for me rehearsed readings are theatre at its purest: a group of very talented actors, little rehearsal, no time to overthink it, no real props or set to hide behind. Actors are relaxed and playful. There is very little at stake (no reviews or press) which means there is everything at stake: the moment that can’t be repeated or improved upon and it can only be shared by a bunch of people in that one evening. Continue reading

What do David Tennant and Andrew Scott have in common?

Kyle Soller as Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Last week, I went to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Apollo theatre, a pitch perfect production of a fascinating play. I will post a review soon but Long Day’s Journey Into Night also interests me for its production history: the play features demanding roles for five actors of two different generations, and while established actors are cast in the older roles, the younger roles are taken by talented, often uknown actors, who often go on to become big stars.

In the 2012 West End production, Edmund, the younger son of the family, is played by Kyle Soller, who recently won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer for his performances in three 2011 productions: Glass Menagerie and The Government Inspector at the Young Vic and the Faith Machine at the Royal Court.

In the last 25 years, Edmund has been played by, among others, David Tennant in a 1994 production for Dundee Rep, Andrew Scott in a 1998 production for Gate theatre in Dublin and Stephen Dillane in a 1991 National Theatre production. Continue reading