Birdland, theatre review: Sherlock's Moriarty Andrew Scott is excellent

2.00

Royal Court, London: For all the play's air of experiment, it is only intermittently successful at bursting through cliche

Moriarty resurrected as a stadium rock god?  A mouthwatering prospect for fans of Andrew Scott's delectably witty and deviant turn as Sherlock Holmes's nemesis on TV and for admirers of the Irish actor's unfailingly brilliant stage work. 

Especially so, since this current project reunites him with playwright Simon Stephens in whose devastating monologue about grief, Sea Wall, he gave one of his most unforgettable performances.

The result, though, is curiously dispiriting.  For all the air of experiment in the abstract staging and multiple role-play of Carrie Cracknell's striking production, Stephens's drama, which is named after the Patti Smith song, is only intermittently successful at bursting through the cliches of the rock-rake's-progress.

Scott portrays Paul, the front man of a hugely successful band that plays to audiences of 75, 000 screaming fans and is on the last leg of a fifteen month world tour. Paul can buy anything, demand anything, go anywhere. And guess what?  He's started to feel seriously hollow inside. He treats people as if they were merely the instruments of his will.  After bedding a band mate's adored girlfriend, he drives her to suicide by threatening to reveal her infidelity and then goes into shifty denial about his guilt.  Scott – who never sings but performs some sexy Jagger-like dance moves – is excellent at conveying Paul's cruelty and charisma, the spoilt-child charm and the bullying manipulativeness of the terminally bored.  And he subtly transmits the character's sense of exile not only from home but from the capacity for empathy that he once had before fame turned him into an object. 

There are some powerfully imagined encounters – not least the tender, touching scene, in a hospitality lounge of the O2 Arena, where his working class dad, painfully swallowing his pride, asks for a £1000 loan and where Paul almost opens his heart to him.  But there's too much that just feels like a jazzed-up version of the tired tropes of the genre – such as his whisking the beautiful room service maid at his Moscow hotel (Nikki Amuka-Bird) on a sudden hedonistic jaunt to Germany (“I'm going to Berlin tomorrow.  Would you like to come with me?”).   Or there's the portentous overkill that mars certain episodes like the one where Paul, with deranged tactlessness, embarrasses the suicide girl's bereaved parents with offers of money for “a new car or some new clothes or some better brandy”.  The situation would be far more excruciating if not taken to quite such point-labouring excess. 

Cracknell's production begins with the characters confined to wheeling themselves around in blue chairs and ends, after the bubble has burst, with Ian MacNeil's spare wooden-arched set turned into a waterlogged wasteland.  We learn little about Paul's songs, other than that they have become more optimistic and that there's the view that they spoke with more honesty when they were trying to appeal to fewer people.  Perhaps this absence is supposed to point up the irony that, as his career advances, Paul, despite his stadium appearances, is increasingly cut off from his music.  But how deeply can we understand this protagonist given such limited knowledge of the creative springs that have been dried up by idolatry?

To May 31; 0207 565 5000

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable