Image: Andrew Scott in Sea Wall
Photographer: Simon Annand
This happened fast. There was no time to consider what I may be seeing, where I would be seeing it and finally would I get there in time. I was offered a ticket in the early afternoon and had 1 hour to get there after work - East London to West London. I made it, with time to spare. So, I was relaxed and able to take everything in. For what could be considered a 'small' evening (running time 30 minutes) it most definitely was full of surprises and revelations, on all counts.
Part of my initial aprehension about seeing Sea Wall was the location. The performaces were taking place in a library around the corner from the actual Bush Theatre and I wondered if we were going to have to stand throughout the performance. All doubts were laid to rest as I easliy found the space, right where they said it would be. There were three or four rows of chairs arranged within the large but initmate open main space - two sections of chairs faced each other and the third connected the other two leaving a small 'playing area'. Above our heads was a large skylight made of glass bricks and corner to corner windows in the two outside walls on either side were completely uncovered to the outside world and the elements.
I sat centre, and watched as the audience members entered and took thier seats while Andrew Scott calmly paced just beyond the chairs, also people watching. Occasionally I would see a Hammersmith and City train go by outside of one window and it made me wonder if the residents of the flats opposite the other windows watched the performance on a nightly basis. Time was ticking by and I got a bit antsy. As the start time approched there seemed to be a steady stream of people going to the toilet seemingly oblivious to the fact that the actor was there waiting to start. Then the strangest thing happened.
A man started to talk to me. He told me some things about a friend of his, older, a military man who had some interesting views on the existence of God. This man who was talking to me was a photographer with a wife and a small child. It was interesting hearing his story but it soon turned a corner and became dark. There was a tragedy in his life that he didn't seem to know how to come to terms with. The man was Andrew Scott and that was his performance. So natural, so intimate one quickly forgot that it was a performance. This is why I love theatre, to get an experience so intimate and personal that it transcends being just entertainment.
I had seen Andrew Scott once before in Christoher Shinn's Dying City at the Royal Court, Honestly, besides the set, Andrew Scott is the only thing I remember. He played twins, and I swear if you weren't aware that the same actor was playing both roles you would think it was actual twins on stage (but you would wonder why they were never on stage at the same time). He gets to the heart of a character, there is no showy 'hey look at me' behaviour, no posturing, no self awareness. He seems to be interested in telling the story, that particular story. Couple that with immense talent and skill and you have a magnificent actor. He makes it look easy but that's talent. It's always great to be in the presence of actors who are more intereted in the work than celebrity. Just take a look at what he's been doing recently - He just finished 2nd May 1997 at the Bush, is now doing this small unshowy monlogue Sea Wall which he also did at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year and is also in rehearsal for Mike Bartlett's Cock - Upstairs at the Royal Court. It seems obvious that with his talent he could take his career to 'big things' (he was in the Broadway version of The Vertical Hour) yet he chooses less splashy work. An actor after my own heart.
Sea Wall was written by Simon Stephens who just had a production of his play Punk Rock on at the Lyric Hammersmith. I had heard wonderful things about his writing and this was my first Simon Stephens experience. I enjoyed it, I think it was well written but I can't say more than that. As it's only about 30 minutes long I don't find that to be long enough for me to come to any conclusion about the writing. I have often felt unsatified by short stories and I kind of feel that this was the theatrical equivalent. Having said that, it has since resonated in my head, not on a profound level, but it's there. I guess that says something,
I think I will check out another Simon Stephens play in the future, it would seem wise to do so. In the meantime, there's still more Andrew Scott to come at the Royal Court. I have my ticket, I may need another for an additional visit. He's worth it.