From humble beginnings taking part in drama competitions as a kid growing up in Dublin, Andrew Scott has gained quite the following over the last few years (if you’ve ever searched his name on Twitter, you’ll be well aware of the ‘Scottie’ fandom). But for all the awards and rave reviews he might have received, he has garnered a reputation bestowed only the finest actors: if he’s in it, you need to see it.
While he had a more than accomplished career throughout the 00s (fun fact: he appears as a soldier in the brutal opening beach scene of Saving Private Ryan), Scott burst onto the radar of many as the cold, scheming Sherlock nemesis Moriaty, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in 2010. The twisted chemistry between the pair - notably in scenes such as in the episode "The Reichenbach Fall", on the roof of St Bartholomew's Hospital – demonstrated their individual brilliance, and they quickly became household names.
As the series slowly but surely grew in popularity, Scott found himself in more and more prominent roles, capitalising on his new-found reputation as a menacing baddie in Sam Mendes’ 007 film Spectre, an experience he described as “really cool”.
The characters Scott was playing on screen attracted viewers because they were a heightened sort of sociopathic villain. They played mind games with their contemporaries, wielded guns, plotted intricate revenge. But on stage, he was treating audiences to a very different type of performance, something more honest and real.
His screen presence drew in a new audience to the world’s most famous play: Hamlet– played by his Sherlock counterpart Cumberbatch a few years before, and bound to spark excitement among fans. Starring in Robert Icke’s production at the Almeida (and later in the West End, and a filmed version on BBC Two), Scott’s performance drew universal acclaim for his tender, introverted take on the Dane.
The best performances of the production, Scott has said, came in a week where tickets were given away for free to under 25s. He said: “To do that play in front of people who don’t know what’s going to happen is the best buzz you can get as an actor.” While producers and school teachers alike ponder over how the Bard can appeal to a younger generation, Scott and Icke proved all it took was a solid, polished production, and a captivating central performance. Those audiences who know Scott as Moriaty would have left the Almeida with a very different sense of Scott as an actor.
But Scott the Introvert was nothing new, and is something he excels at on stage. In 2008, as mainstream success loomed, he played Alex in a short play written especially for him by Simon Stephens: Sea Wall. The heart-wrenching monologue sees Scott play Alex, a photographer who mulls over the biggest personal tragedy in his life, and how it had wider implications on his relationships and personal philosophy.
It’s a blistering piece of writing that demands a special rapport with an audience, as Alex draws you in before leading you up a harrowing and tragic path that will have you floored. This isn’t the fantasy of Sherlock and Spectre, but rather the sobering reality of the man next door. Scott’s acting is so brilliant, you forget he’s even acting at all.
For those that saw the original run at the Bush Theatre (or subsequent performances in Edinburgh or at the National), there is a unique opportunity to see Sea Wall again at the Old Vic as part of the theatre’s 200th birthday celebrations. For those who are yet to see it, it could be your last chance to experience an exquisite performance.