05/08/13 - 'Sea Wall' at the Shed, National Theatre

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while (and you are my favourite kind of people) may experience a little sense of déjà vu whilst reading this review.  And yes, I have written about this particular piece of theatre before (here).  However, when the opportunity to experience Simon Stephens' 'Sea Wall' for a second time arose, I couldn't possibly pass it up.  Especially a chance to see it as it was originally performed: by the inimitable Andrew Scott of whom I am continually in awe.

Last Friday, I jaunted down to London after work to meet my gorgeous friend Rachael for a very quick bite to eat before heading to The Shed at the National Theatre for the 10pm start of the run's final performance.  Despite having to lug a heavy rucksack around with me and feeling a little harassed by my busy day, I have never been more happy with a decision I have made. 

After the stunning half-hour performance, Rachael and I agreed that it could be summed up in two words: theatre magic.  Andrew Scott was utterly incredible, commanding the attention of the audience from the moment they entered the studio theatre, nodding and smiling as people passed him to find their seats.  He took Stephens' incredible words, full of self-deprecating humour, vivid imagery and heart-breaking reality in equal measures, and made them electrifying.  From the trivial anecdotes of family routine to the gut-wrenching moment that comes out of nowhere to slap you in the face, every word and gesture and pause was utterly believable.  The conversational tone makes the blow even more shocking when it does come and I can honestly say that I have never heard a packed room as deathly quiet before, every member of the audience totally engaged with the tragedy quietly unfolding before them.   Having seen Cary Crankson perform the piece in Manchester earlier this year, I knew what to expect but it didn't make the performance any less impressive and moving.  It was a total triumph and entirely deserving of the resounding standing ovation it quite rightly received.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to speak to Andrew Scott following the performance - unsurprisingly, he was swamped in the bar afterwards.  We did get a brief chat with Simon Stephens, who was so lovely and enthusiastic whilst speaking to us which increased my respect for him even further - a true gent.  Even getting caught in a ridiculous thunderstorm whilst having a drink at an outside bar once we left the theatre couldn't mar my amazement after spending an evening in the presence of two such incredibly talented men.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if I ever manage to write something that moves one person in the way that Stephens' work moves so many, then I can die happy.

If you were one of the many unfortunate souls who missed out on the much-coveted tickets, check out the equally as impressive film version here - it will be the best £3.50 you spend.

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