Sea Wall – Simon Stephens

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Simon Stephens’ work. No, I haven’t seen or read Curious Incident…I don’t really want to. Yes, I know it won a Tony. I don’t like to talk about it.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, Sea Wall.

I’ve read half of Simon Stephens’ published plays and I would be quick to nominate Sea Wall as his best. To be fair it tickles the g-spot on a couple of my most deeply held biases: It has only been performed by Andrew Scott (hysterical fan-girl screaming), and it is sui generis among naturalistic, one-man shows.

Cast: 1M Run Time: 30ish minutes Summary: A naturalistic one-act family drama exploring themes of: growth, maturity, aging, death, love, marriage, belief in God. Playscript: Got mine from a Methuen Drama Collection, Simon Stephens Plays 2

NB: Rights were not available for amateur performances in the US, when I looked into it this year.

This is a good one for the monologue vs. one-man play debate. I come down on the side of ‘play’ for this one even though it lacks stage directions. The shape of the action does all the work of a larger,more elaborate story. Whatever you care to call it, Sea Wall is appealing and affecting which is how you win at theatre.

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7 comments

  1. anotherwisemonkey · June 20, 2015

    Yep, I read the book many years ago. They did a great job of telling the story of Curious from the protagonist’s viewpoint, so you find the sequence when he is trying to get to London terrifying. That ability to make the audience feel like they’ve had a glimpse of what it’s like to have Asperger’s syndrome was very well crafted. It’s also a technically very well designed show, with fantastic use of effects.

  2. anotherwisemonkey · June 20, 2015

    Great stuff. I went to see Sleep No More three times in New York last month. Brilliant!

    I’m of Irish stock myself and really interested in your work. I’m hoping to visit Boston next April so perhaps I’ll get to see something you’ve worked on.

    Thanks for the follow and the great discussion.

  3. Nuts2Soup · June 19, 2015

    Oh yeah! What did you like about Curious? Have you also read the book?

  4. Nuts2Soup · June 19, 2015

    I work with a little upstart called Solas Nua in Boston. We are the first franchise company of Solas Nua a group that started in 2005 in Washington, DC to shed a New Light (the meaning of Soals Nua in Irish) on Irish arts. We are a year old this month and still figuring a lot of things out but working to build our following and a real community around new Irish theatre. Ironically, I’m not Irish but that’s a whole different discussion :)

    I read your post on “The Drowned Man” (and edited the link b/c it wasn’t re-directing properly). It’s nice to hear another opinion on it, though I have to say I felt quite differently. Punchdrunk brought “Sleep No More” their Macbeth/Rebecca mash-up to Boston in 2010. It was a life changing experience. I have never been scared at a play before. I have never sprinted after an actor at a play before. I have never been so stunned and moved by the actors’ athleticism and physical emotion at a play before. It was epic! So I was very excited to go see “The Drowned Man” in London last year but ultimately underwhelmed by the story. The two narratives did not hold together for me and I was surprised by how much longer the “scenes” were and how much more acting there was (lines) instead of dancing, compared to Sleep No More. That said their set-dressing was still mind-blowing –the studio executives office was my favorite; the dance/brawl/sex scene in the bar was very well done; and I sprinted (in panic) back to “home” when I wandered into the stairwell with the bloody handprints on the wall. So the visceral was still there even if I wasn’t in love with the narrative.

    I saw Carmen Disruption at the Almeida when I was in London this year and that was quite satisfying. There will be a post about it eventually. So stay tuned!

  5. anotherwisemonkey · June 19, 2015

    Silent sounds great. What company do you work with?

    The most fully satisfying performance I’ve ever experienced was the immersive Punchdrunk show “The Drowned Man”. I blogged about it here…

    https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/the-drowned-man/#more-765

    Another incredibly satisfying production was “Street of Crocodiles” by Complicite.

    How about for you? What’s been your most satisfying theatrical experience?

  6. Nuts2Soup · June 19, 2015

    Thanks for dropping by the blog and starting a discussion! I have not seen that many live. At least not as an adult who cares about more than the entertainment factor. I grew up in the 80s and it seems a lot of solo theatre made for good school/child-friendly presentations so I saw more then. A small company I work with presented Silent by Pat Kinevane last year and I found that one very satisfying. I loved all the themes, the actor was very charismatic, the text breaks the fourth wall but the actor who played McGoldrig took a restrained approach to his “psychosis” so it was always an open question if McGoldrig was talking to the audience or talking to an imaginary audience. I loved it.

    I like that you use the word satisfied. What are some plays (solo or otherwise) that you have found satisfying. What made them satisfying to you?

  7. anotherwisemonkey · June 17, 2015

    Sounds intriguing. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a one-person performance that completely satisfied me. Have you seen many live?

    By the way, I’ve seen Curious and I have to say it’s well worth the visit.

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