Put simply, Andrew Scott delivers another onstage tour-de-force in Birdland, the impressionistic new play from Sea Wall writer Simon Stephens. As Paul, a rock star who has just crested the cusp of superstardom in an undirected burst of hedonism and eventual self-destruction, he commands the stage very much as he did in the 2011 National Theatre production of Emperor and Galilean, never leaving and always at the centre of attention. Paul is initially wickedly funny, rude and potty-mouthed, fully embracing the chance, fame and money he has been given but eventually losing all sense of morals and normal behaviour, divorced from his friends and unaware of the desperate scrabbling of those he has left behind as he descends into angry paranoia and guilt. Andrew Scott is a dab hand at this kind of material, delivering a performance of such frantic physicality, such bubbly naturalism and such titanically shattering anger that you are hypnotically drawn to the character despite the hideous actions he takes and the horrendous things he says.
The supporting cast that bounces and feeds off Andrew’s performance is also universally excellent. With a group of six players, Birdland is economical with the use of the other actors, with only Alex Price (Being Human, Merlin, Doctor Who) alone in portraying a single character throughout - Paul’s best friend Johnny, who he ultimately betrays more powerfully than anyone. The other performers each play multiple roles throughout, but are also gifted a critical, showpiece character. Nikki Amuka-Bird (Luther, Silent Witness) as Jenny expresses wide eyed wonder and then horror at the world she is invited into by Paul. Daniel Cerquira (Wallander, Birdsong, HBO’s Rome) is hilarious as his tour manager, initially a true yes-man before turning into an angry lecturer. Yolanda Kettle (Holby City) is warm and misguided as Marnie, Johnny’s girlfriend, and Charlotte Randle (Silent Witness, Legacy) is brittle and unimpressed as a journalist who is ultimately the only person able to see straight through Paul.
Particular attention also has to be paid to the imaginative production design that highlights a deeper visual metaphor that lies at the heart of the entire play. Surrounded by a glassy moat, the stage slowly tips by increments as Paul’s world continues to collapse, allowing a wash of black poisonous water to creep in like a cancerous tide all while the detritus of consumerism is thrown into the mix, eventually producing a symbolic filth that soaks into the day-glow, 1960’s coloured clothing of those performing.
Birdland is a play that presents us with a facade that is ultimately permeated by casual, almost accidental greed and self destruction. It is not a moralistic fable, as in the end it neither chooses to damn or champion Paul in the method of the destruction he creates. Thanks to Andrew Scott’s performance, it is ultimately a play that leaves the audience to make their own judgement upon a man who blindly allows his world to drown in the creeping darkness that fame can sometimes incite, if the celebrity is not strong enough to control the excesses that they now find readily available to them.
Birdland is performing at the Royal Court Theatre in London until May 31 2014. For ticket availability, check the Royal Court Theatre website.
New from GB Posters - Sherlock mixed badge packs!
Use the code ‘221B’ at checkout to claim 25% off your order until midnight on Monday April 21!
How do you fancy helping to set a new world record?
On August 31 2014, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Foundation will attempt to break the World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed up as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.
The challenge will be hosted at Temple Newsam, a beautiful historic country house a short distance outside of the city of Leeds, with the chief aim of helping to raise funds towards a new £2m Yorkshire Brain Research Centre. Attendees can choose to dress as any incarnation of Sherlock Holmes they wish from his long and storied history.
Registration is £15 and in return participants will receive a Deerstalker hat, a pipe and a magnifying glass. Prizes will be given for the best dressed Holmes. Sherlock fans can enter a raffle for £5 to win signed goodies from the cast of Sherlock, including Benedict Cumberbatch signed photographs, Sherlock script and books. 100% of proceeds will go to the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre.
Clair Challenor-Chadwick, Appeal Director of the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre, said: "Sherlock may live at Baker Street, London, but according to the most influential fictional biography of Holmes by Baring-Gould, Holmes was born in Yorkshire, the youngest of three sons of Siger Holmes and Violet Sherrinford. We wanted to reclaim him for Yorkshire, and he is the perfect inspiration for our Appeal as the world’s brainiest detective."
Clair added: "We are calling on collective brain power to help raise funds for this important cause! If you love Sherlock you will love this fun family event, expect special guests and some great entertainment."
Register for the event at www.sherlockworldrecord.com
For special announcements and event news follow @yorkshirebrain, #sherlockrecord
Did you snag a BBC Shop exclusive 'Consulting Detective' Sherlock mug?
There’s now a companion mug up for pre-order - ‘High Functioning Sociopath’ - with a sky blue interior finish to compliment the blood red of the earlier release.
Take a closer look at the previous Consulting Detective mug.
New Sherlock vinyl stickers are now available from GB Posters, and we have an exclusive 25% discount code until midnight on Sunday April13 by using the code ‘SHERLOCK25’ at checkout!
Take a look at near final samples of the upcoming Sherlock 1:6 scale collector figures from Big Chief Studios
Welcome to the fourth month of the year, and it’s time to crack the anagram for April 2014!
As usual Easy or Hard modes are available to unlock and download your desktop calendar.
Both answers relate to the pixelated image above in some way, so put your feet up and have a ponder… You will of course have to use your skills of deduction to arrange the letters into the correct order to solve the Sherlock related anagram to gain access to the wallpaper download.
Head over to our website to begin.
After a series of legal battles spanning many years, Undershaw - the former home of Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - has secured a bright future at last.
Thanks to the DFN Charitable Foundation, the house will form part of a brand new school, in combination with the existing Stepping Stones school in Hindhead, Surrey. Stepping Stones is an independent special school dedicated to the education of pupils with mild learning and physical difficulties, and with the acquisition of Undershaw the school will become ‘The Schools at Undershaw’. Undershaw will play host to the upper school, while the existing Stepping Stones building will become the junior school.
Undershaw is a Grade II listed building which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drafted the initial designs for himself, with construction completing in 1897. The property was where the author effectively resurrected Sherlock Holmes from his death at the Falls of the Reichenbach, writing ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and then the stories collected together as ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’. Since 1920 the building has been used as a hotel, but in the past decade fell into disrepair. The Undershaw Preservation Trust, with Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss as patron, was thus set up to safeguard the property from development proposals that included an attempt to partly demolish the building so it could be transformed into residential flats - a decision overturned at the High Court in London in May 2012.
Sherlockology has followed the campaign to save this important building since our creation, and so we extend our warmest congratulations to the team at the Undershaw Preservation Trust for this excellent news that not only safeguards the property but also gives it a bright and productive future in the lives of young people for generations to come.