'Sea Wall' is a thirty-minute monologue written by acclaimed British playwright Simon Stephens especially for film, television and theater actor, Andrew Scott. It's a beautiful, excruciating piece about the unexpected death of a beloved and loving eight-year-old girl, and the effect her life and subsequent loss have on her family. In the hands of the right actor it becomes a triumph of storytelling. Alex, the young husband and father played by Scott, has just witnessed Helen, his adored wife, give birth to Lucy, their first child. In wonder he says,
"I love her completely. With every bone and bit of skin of me."
A young man is pacing calmly in the back of a room, now and then looking up as people file into the small space and take their seats amid the straight-backed chairs assembled in rows. There is no stage. After a time when all the visitors have settled in, the young man, dressed casually in jeans and a shirt, begins to speak, occasionally looking directly in the eyes of individuals in the audience as if they have met casually someplace. The room is stark and in its natural light. There is a large window over to one side where one can see passersby walk to and fro from time to time if one looks in that direction. But, no one does because the person telling the story has them in the grip of his narrative. He is magical and mesmerizing. His soft voice draws them in closer and closer as he tells the simple story about his love for his daughter and wife in a deceptively ordinary, at times amusing, at times heartbreaking fashion. Alex wonders in conversations with his father-in-law if there is a God and if so what does he look like. Is he a man? Does he have a long white beard? He speaks at length about his daughter being born, then getting older and the effect she has on him, and says things like,
"She starts wearing cardigans and that’s me done for."
There are several plays Andrew Scott has appeared in that I wish I'd seen. Reviews of his performances are generally very effusive using words like "spellbinding" and "mesmerizing." He never disappoints. But, this particular piece makes me almost ache for having missed it. The combination of the story, the beautiful words, and Andrew's persona and talent seem a perfect match of actor to role. It isn't surprising that Simon Stephens would create a monologue for Scott which calls for a sensitive, charming, gentle man. He embodies those qualities in almost every character he plays. Even Moriarty in Sherlock was undeniably likable. And certainly mesmerizing.
In researching 'Sea Wall' I couldn't find it in publication. I couldn't experience the performance which had gotten excellent reviews in the small venues where it had been mounted, and I had to know what the words were to imagine Scott saying them. Along the way I was fortunate to find the author himself, well-known British playwright, Simon Stephens. I asked him if it was available in published form so I could buy a copy, but instead he kindly sent me the whole play saying that he was only too happy to contribute to a celebration of Andrew Scott as he thought him a "deeply special actor." He's not alone in that.
Once again I want to thank Simon Stephens for his generosity. It turns out that Sea Wall has been published and is available from Methuen in their STEPHENS PLAYS 2. I encourage you to read it.