Directed by George Perrin
The Old Vic
The actor serves the story, which in turn serves the audience — serves the audience a formative experience that, despite knowing its nothing more than an actor on stage, produces an emotional and cathartic experience that enriches one’s life. What’s happening on the Old Vic stage during Sea Wall’s limited run is a masterclass in the art of acting from one of Britain’s finest actors, illuminating the power and force storytelling can have on an audience.
For two weeks only, Andrew Scott (Hamlet, Sherlock) returns to Simon Stephens’ (A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) beautiful monologue Sea Wall about a man grappling with the death of a child and the breakdown of his life. After visiting his father-in-law at his South of France home, Alex’s daughter Lucy falls off a cliff while playing on the beach and dies from her injuries. Alex recalls the events leading up to his daughter’s death: meeting his wife, falling in love, Lucy’s birth, and the day of her death.
In a stunning half-hour, Stephens touches on life, love, loss, faith, and the after-life, telling an honestly raw and truthful story of a man on the edge. The stream-of-consciousness style of writing places the audience into the mind of a man devastated by grief, allowing the audience to track what is important to a man who has lost everything of importance. Stephens writing is at times witty and charming, at times heartbreaking and intimate, but, without a doubt, it captures the essence of the human heart (and is beautifully delivered by a very human performance).
George Perrin’s direction is simple: he lays the stage bare, nothing but a black curtain and his principal actor; he uses no lighting, even keeping the house lights up to make the personal conversation between us and Alex more intimate and intense. The simplicity of the staging, which allows Scott to flourish in his performance, strips away any artificial theatricality and leaves behind a deeply intense and human experience.
With nothing on the stage beside himself and a bottle of water, Scott commands the entire theatre with his powerfully authentic and genuine performance. Scott engrosses the entire audience in his story, as the silence and the stillness in throughout the audience is deafening. The audience even fell into a collective silence before the performance began, with an understanding that we were all about to see an artist master his craft. Scott’s performance is remarkably captivating and utterly breathtaking; his fierce talent and subtle turn of phrase fill the auditorium with an electric energy. Perhaps not one of Scott’s best roles (of recent, that lies with his phenomenal Hamlet), but it’s still a stunning performance nonetheless, proving that his skill as an actor can bring to life any character.
Sea Wall is a part of The Old Vic’s 200th Year Celebration and will run from 18 to 30 June