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A CurtainUp London Review
When his best friend and band mate Johnny (Alex Price) talks about trusting his girlfriend Marnie (Yolanda Kettle), Paul sees only a challenge to seduce Marnie and destroy any illusions Johnny may have. What seems to offend Paul is Johnny's closeness to Marnie. He says to Johnny, "Fuck her up the arse. Come on her back. Leave." It's a powerful statement as to how jaded Paul's life has become as he cynically destroys any chance of happiness his friend might have with this girl.
Paul is manipulating people now for entertainment but he is also aware of how destructive he has become but doesn't seem able to stop it. Visiting Marnie's parents in Paris, Paul plays mind games with them and lies to both them and Johnny.
Andrew Scott's performance is mesmerising as the toxic rock star. Dressed in a turquoise shiny leather jacket, his black hair slicked back, he looks the part. He is cold and detached from the emotion, like an onlooker, not engaging emotionally like a form of autism. While the play may expose the shallowness of his personality, there is no doubt that his cruelty is born out of his fear of finding himself alone. He plays with people, confusing them, contradictory, twisting what he has said like offering to get a fan a hotel room instead of sleeping on a friend's sofa and then denying this. Although he is despicable, Scott's rock singer is also compelling.
Ian MacNeil's set is a shiny square proscenium with a dark surround. The final scene sees the stage flooded, oozing with a thick black liquid which taints everything it touches.
The cast play many different roles, apart from Alex Price and Andrew Scott, and I especially liked Daniel Cerqueira as the father, the fixer, the fan and two other roles.
The title Birdland is a tribute to Patti Smith's song of the same name. Simon Stephens has given us a provocative play about the vacuity of celebrity and wealth with an outstanding performance from Andrew Scott who is both malevolent and vulnerable.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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