by Simon Stephens.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 24 May.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 18, 21 April, 5 May Mat Sat & 8, 25, 22 May 2.30pm
Audio-described 17 May 2.30pm.
Captioned 21 May.
Post-show Talk 7 May.
Runs 2hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 April.
Bird lands with a thump from high flight in stylish morality tale.
Its title is taken from a Patti Smith song, but it’s hard not to find a reference to a myth of human hubris in Simon Stephens’ new play. Like Icarus flying near the sun and melting the glue holding his manufactured wings, rock-star idol Paul goes into freefall. At the start, he’s at the top, swinging in his stylish chair on Ian McNeil’s flexibly abstract setting, having a single peach delivered by hotel room-service.
Whatever Paul wants, someone gets for him and he has slipped into an insolent arrogance. But like Icarus’ wings, this is born of circumstances not nature. The glue that sticks everything he wants to Paul is money, and as things go wrong, with questions over his future, and consequent pulling-in of horns by his ‘people’, so the easy assurance which has meant he barely needs to vary his speech from a minimum-effort semi-sneer erupts in anger then disbelief.
Women are his downfall, as he’d been happy to be theirs, emotionally speaking. Consequences of his behaviour for other people don’t touch him.
Carrie Cracknell’s production provides Stephens with a suitably stylish, glitzy production, minimal and elegant, with nothing of substance in set or characters. Acting such people with precision is demanding and the cast respond finely, with finesse. Andrew Scott introduces a childish surprise into his contemptuous manner, suddenly finding energy after dismissing anyone else’s troubles with something less than a shrug.
Alex Price simultaneously reveals the contempt hidden beneath subservience when he rounds on his rock-star client for believing everything the company has provided was his to keep. Nikki Amuka-Bird and Charlotte Randle as police officers provide a contrasting official manner that gets on with he job, while Yolanda Kettle’s Marnie shows the devastation a Paul can cause. In his one scene as Paul’s father, caught in payday loan debts, Daniel Cerqueira contrasts contrast his son in a character outside the charmed circle where others serve-up your life to order on an expensive plate.
Stephens shows a character’s long fall; how much depth and substance might lie behind all the glitz involved, presumably time will tell.
Johnny: Alex Price.
Paul: Andrew Scott.
Jenny/DC Evans: Nikki Amuka-Bird.
Annalisa/Madeline/Luc/Claudie/DC Richer: Charlotte Randle.
Marnie/Lucy/Sophie/Nicola: Yolanda Kettle.
David/Louis/Marc/Martin/Alistair: Daniel Cerqueira.
Director: Carrie Cracknell.
Designer: Ian MacNeil.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.
Costume: Holly Waddington.
Movement: Ann Yee.
Dialect coach: William Conacher.
Assistant director: Debbie Hannan.
The Big Idea: Birdland
Saturday 10 May 1pm & 6pm:
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs)
Tickets £5 (or free with a ticket to Birdland)
Plato on Fame and Status: a talk by Professor Angie Hobbs, University of Sheffield,
followed by: You’re Not as Tall as You Look by Chris Thorpe.
A new play inspired by Plato and Rachel Zoe about how meeting your heroes isn’t the same as taking them home.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000
AlixPartners support The Big Idea at the Royal Court Theatre.