Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Scott’

Mini-review – Birdland – Royal Court Theater

May 20, 2014

It seems almost pointless writing up Birdland given that it’s closing in less than two weeks: but I just have to stand up and say HOORAY! for a show that makes me feel like we are truly living in a golden age of theater. I can almost imagine fans of German theater saying, “Oh, but British theater is all so realistic!” or perhaps other people saying, “Oh, but this show is gloomy!” but to me, any play that makes me experience real feelings, that makes me, for example, genuinely embarrassed for actors reading a script as if I were actually listening to a real conversation between two people in a semi-public place … while, in reality, I was just watching people who were being paid to speak lines which they had said again and again night after night … WHEW!

Now admittedly there’s a bit of typecasting in putting poor old Andrew Scott in the role of yet another whiny git we’d just love to slap (as Paul, an egotistical front man for some kind of chipper pop band), but then, wow, look, there’s the utterly amazing Daniel Cerquiera just seamlessly playing so many utterly different roles … Paul’s smarmy band manager, the distraught father of a suicided groupie, and Paul’s completely grounded and rather sad dad … I mean, where has Cerquiera been hiding? He’s the kind of perfectly formed actor that the London theatrical scene seems to be exhaling through its gills, so perfect at so many roles that, even with the (mere) six actors on stage for nearly the entire two hours (I could see them! right there!) I kept thinking some other guy had shown up to do whichever role I was watching. I mean, listen to this speech Cerquiera made as the father whose daughter has died, it’s going to sound so trite but I have to quote it:

[S]he’s in my head all the time. Do you see? I feel heavy with sadness. I feel like my clothes are heavy with sadness. The physical effort of getting up in the morning is crippling to me.

I felt heartbroken listening to him say that. For God’s sake, I was just listening to an actor! On a stage that didn’t even pretend to be realistic! (Actually it was like the Old Vic’s Much Ado set was recycled by someone who was determined to make a point that it could be used in a way that was not shit, with a bonus “drowning” metaphor thrown in to make the entire experience not just a little bit more beautiful but, I have to say it, profound.) How could I lose my sense of separation? He was speaking words that were WRITTEN for him to say (by Mr Simon Stephens, and full credits for your plot twists, sir), I shouldn’t have felt a thing.

And it was all … perfect. And it wasn’t some shit celebrity rehash of Shakespeare that nobody really needed to see or put on. I was fully in the moment even when the idiot six seats over had her MP3 player go off late in the show. (I imagined throwing it into the canal surrounding the set. A fitting end, I think.)

At least, well, I can feel good knowing that this show is pretty well sold out for the whole run, like it ought to be. Five stars, baby, five stars: it doesn’t get any better than this. I can prove it with numbers, and numbers never lie.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday May 19th and cost me all of TEN POUNDS, baby. Ten pounds isn’t even real money. Well, not to Paul, anyway. Maybe to his dad. If they were actually really people, which they’re not. I think. I kind of wasn’t sure for a bit. Anyway, Birdland runs through May 31st. Please try really hard to go see it.)

Review – Emperor and Galilean – National Theatre

June 13, 2011

It has been nearly 24 hours since I escaped from the Olivier Theater and the production of Emperor and Galilean being paraded in front of a loyal London theater-going audience as someone’s idea of a show worth producing and I admit I’m still scratching my head about what to say. I had to see this show as an Ibsen completist, but I was really worried given 1) its running time (3 1/2 hours, with the first act a punishing 1:50) 2) the fact that for whatever reason 150 years had gone by and no one had seen fit to produce this play. Accident … or thoughtful avoidance? It was also a play written to be read and not produced, and it preceded all of Ibsen’s great works. All in all, it had the orange and black stripes commonly associated with poisonous animals all over it. EMPEROR AND GALILEAN: DO NOT EAT*.

I went anyway, though. The plot (both overdrawn and yet incomplete, feeling a bit like the English language version of Red Cliffs) started with teenage Prince Julian (Andrew Scott) attempting to deal with the pressure both of being in line for the throne (if his uncle, Emperor Constantius – Nabil Shaban, deliciously evil – doesn’t kill him first) and of not being able to make up his mind about religion. He starts the play very Christian, wanting only to return to the hills of Cappadocia and study the bible with his friends. Later he gets into the pagan mysteries (while studying in Athens) and slowly turns away from Christianity. Skipping over a bit, he does wind up becoming emperor and convincing himself he’s being chosen for thte job by the pagan gods, whom he chooses to restore when he takes the throne (he’s not called “Julian the Apostate” for nothing). Then he takes his mojo and decides to attack Persia … and basically hallucinates himself to death.

All of this up and down is done by Andrew Scott at exactly the same tone throughout – moderately hysterical. It was sad to see him out-acted not just by all three of his best friends but also by Ian McDiarmid, playing Maximus, the mystic he hooks up with when he leaves Athens. The thing is, McDiarmid’s voice, which I couldn’t but hear as the Emperor from the Star Wars movies, just put him in a whole ‘nother level of reality when he and Scott were on the state. McDiarmid owned his role: Scott was owned by his (God I love watching the old dudes show the tyros how you do it). I lay an entire star not earned for this play at Scott’s feet; perhaps he will find his way as the show goes on, but I can’t help but feel this flawed beast should never have been let out of the stableyard.

Credit is due the National as they did not stint with this production: the entrance of Constantius is truly amazing; the many-leveled uses of the revolving stage were impressive (it’s a door! it’s a cliff!), though I felt the slaughterhouse-y thing under the church was unnecessary; the simple costuming effective; the music stirring. And there was a very enthusiastic Dionysian ritual orgy-thing at the start of act two just when you thought you had no more energy to get through until the end. Still, I’ll be clear: this show should never have seen the light of day, the National should not have blown so much money on bringing it to life (much less funding a new script), and Andrew Scott, much like Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker), needs to find a few more emotions. I cannot recommend this play to anyone other than hard-core Ibsen fans; all others, spare yourself the agony: here’s the Wikipedia article on Julian; read it with a bottle of wine by your side and I promise you you’ll come off far more satisfied than I did after my long and painful night at the theater watching this thing.

*Actually what you’ll want to not do is drink before this show unless you have a bladder the size of a watermelon.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, June 11th, 2011, at 7 PM. It runs through August 10th.)

Review – Cock – Royal Court

December 1, 2009

How good was Cock? How very good was Cock. Cock was the play that keeps me going to shows night after night, waiting for that magic to happen. Cock was the play that, when my lover says, “You see theater too much,” makes me think, “No, I barely go enough, because if I hadn’t been dedicated and willing to stand in line in the mere hope of getting a ticket, I would have missed seeing this comet shoot across the horizon, illuminating us all as it passed.” Cock made it all worthwhile.

In the round, we have presented to us a conundrum; a man all but married to his (male) lover, who has left and found himself a very new thing; a woman, intelligent and gentle and so very different from this blundering, powerful man he’s left behind. But then, he’s not left him behind; he’s left neither behind; he’s left himself behind and can’t find his way back. Is he straight, is he gay, is he just a manipulative cock who wants to feel important, somehow, by hurting other peiople and seeing just how much they’ll humiliate themselves for him? Or is he really torn between two identities, or maybe two lovers, not sure which – identity or lover – is right for him? Which is family? Which is his future?

While I could have hated the in-the-round staging of this show, in fact, the incredible intimacy overwhelmed the occasional frustrations of not being able to see an actors face. Almost always, I felt I could tell what they were doing, because the brilliant characterizations filled in the gaps. The twitching cheek; the arrogant poses: I felt no gaps in the action anymore than I would have felt I was “missing the expressions” while watching a domestic dispute in my living room.

Andrew Scott was especially brilliant as the tortured boyfriend; never once did I find myself doubting his arrogance or the pain he was going through. Now that it’s done, though, I find that I’m getting lost in the conundrum of which gave the perfection, the cast or the play, and I have to just sit back and smile, or dance with joy, for Thanks Be that amidst all the dreck and staleness that too frequently hits My Lady – the theater – the other woman in my life – there can still be nights like these, when I spent two hours watching and then another hour questioning, What did this mean? Why did he treat her/him so cruelly? all the time willfully forgetting that it was all sound and fury – and instead buying that what I saw was real and worth caring about and feeing hurt over (and with) the characters as I watched them suffer. Truly, this was a night that repaid every evening I spend in the dark waiting for magic to happen in front of me.

(This review was for a performance that took place on December 2st, 2009. I did drink rather a lot of wine afterwards but I can say, if you didn’t get tickets to this show, I fully authorize you to cry about what a great experience you missed. Thanks to Mzendle for braving the returns line to get us seats; you are ace!)