Three Kings by Stephen Beresford. The Old Vic – streamed on Zoom. 3-5 September 2020. 4****. William Russell

Andrew Scott delivers a powerhouse performance in this one man play about a man looking back at his relationship with an impossible father, a man who confronted his eight year old son by a woman he had left years before with the riddle of the title. Three coins on a table top – the task is to move the one on the right without moving the one in the middle or touching the one on the left to movie it so that you alter the arrangement so that the first one ends up in the middle – it is an old con trick and father turns out to be a con artist with multiple wives and a distinctly dodgy family past in Spain. If he can solve it the father promises to see the son again. It is funny, sad and been skillfully constructed so that interest is held from beginning to end, and Scott shows yet again what a charismatic performer he is.
The 60 minute monologue written for Scott was screened live in a series of performances seen by people world wide. It differed from the Alan Bennett Talking Heads monologues – seen by audiences at the Bridge – in that they, as shown on television, were essentially static, here the screen is used to cinematic effect, so that as the story widens in scope you see first on Scott, then two, then three. The effect is astonishingly powerful, a bit like how when in front of a live performance one’s gaze moves from the speaker to somewhere else and then back again. It all adds to Scott’s performance and makes it less of a monologue delivered straight to viewer as they so often are.
There is no audience in the theatre, although at the end Scott takes his bow to recorded applause – if the audience were real it would be louder – but each performance is being streamed live to the Zoom audience – others will follow.
The Old Vic also is putting some of its archives of productions since Matthew Warchus took over in 2015 on You Tube and they will be available to see free. Tickets were sold for Three Kings and will be for the life transmissions planned – full details of those can be found on the theatre’s web site.
Director: Matthew Warchus.
Design: Rob Howell.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Broadcast sound and video: Simon Blake and Jay Jones.
Photograph:Old Vuc/Getty Images
Sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada.

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