Theatre review: Sea Wall starring Andrew Scott at Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Andrew Scott is a star. Known to television viewers as Moriarty in Sherlock, and to Irish cinema fans for recent excellent work in The Stag, his name can now fill a theatre. He returns to the Irish stage for the first time in fifteen years in this Paines Plough production of a work written for him in 2008 by Simon Stephens, presented by Dublin Theatre Festival.
Scott plays Alex, a photographer on a French seaside holiday with his wife, his daughter, and his father-in-law. A catastrophic accident occurs and Alex’s blissful life falls apart.
Originally commissioned for minimalist staging by the Bush Theatre at a time when that venue’s building was damaged, these parameters are observed in this presentation too. The stage and audience are brightly lit under work lights, with no set and only a bottle of water as a prop. There is just the performer’s talent, and the script. That is all.
Scott has the actor’s magic, and hits all the emotional intensities of the story with vulnerability and precision. But the thirty-minute script is so slight, he is building bricks without straw.
Alex is a nice man who loves his wife and daughter. You couldn’t describe him afterwards, because there is no characterisation created in the writing. The primary thing the script offers is an emotional peak, and whilst it gives the actor an opportunity for a canter, it just isn’t meaty or satisfying enough. It doesn’t contain enough insight into the pain. This type of tragedy has been dramatised much more effectively elsewhere.
Far more interesting was the post-show discussion on Tuesday night. Scott was joined by director George Perrin who was understated but razor sharp, and also by the writer Stephens who was much more interesting than this particular script. It was an unusual experience of the play illuminating the discussion, rather than the discussion shedding light on the play.