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BWW Review: THREE KINGS, Old Vic

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A world premiere of a brand-new play, starring Andrew Scott

BWW Review: THREE KINGS, Old Vic

BWW Review: THREE KINGS, Old VicThere was an unexpected delay to The Old Vic presenting the second production in their In Camera series, but with a fully recovered Andrew Scott ready to go, Three Kings is finally being livestreamed to audiences.

A world premiere of a brand-new play written by Stephen Beresford, Three Kings has been created specifically for the Old Vic's innovative digital series.

The show is about Patrick (played by Scott), who has a complicated relationship with his absentee father. Through his monologue, he retells poignant moments in his life that are connected to his dad: from his father's sudden reappearance when he was eight and the Three Kings challenge he sets Patrick, to aching conversations over the phone, meeting new siblings and dealing with his father's death.

While the subject matter is dark and the content (and its delivery) often heartbreaking, there's also elegant moments of comedy scattered lightly at the most perfect times. For example, a scene where Patrick is reminiscing about meeting his half-brother (also called Patrick) stands out as a cleverly humorous moment where two heartsick men (both played by Scott) laugh about their shared experiences, rather than just focus on the pain. But when those painful moments do hit - like Patrick witnessing his father breaking down - they hit you hard and unexpectedly.

The role of Patrick was written especially for Scott, and it's easy to see why. It's clearly challenging, requiring the actor to jump between characters and very intense emotions quickly - from the bitter ex-wife and the happily enthusiastic half-sibling, to the angry and alcohol-fuelled breakdowns of the father and son. It requires an expert in characterisation who can make such complex personae relatable, something that Scott conveys in spades. His portrayal of each person in the stories he tells is so genuine you can end up forgetting that he's a one-man band, as he masterfully delivers intimate and vulnerable moments between two characters with ease and sophistication.

As well as these exceptional portraits, Scott's performance of Patrick develops throughout too - as he goes from a young boy who idolises his father, to a teenager desperate to impress, to a grown man full of anger. This sort of character development would usually feel rushed in a 60-minute play like this one, but the subtle mood changes in script, combined with Scott's altering tone and body language, makes it feel like a natural progression and adds further depth to the story rather than taking you out of the moment.

The direction by Matthew Warchus has clarity and purpose from the get-go and helps to elevate Scott's intense performance further. In particular, the camera dividing into multiple sections when two or more characters are in a scene is a simple touch which helps to set the scene quickly and effectively. Warchus's directorial choices further highlight their ability to adapt cleverly to limitations and still deliver something poignant.

With just four performances of this play being performed, we can only hope this production gets a revival on stage when theatres are ready to reopen.

Three Kings played at the Old Vic 3-5 September

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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From This Author Eleni Cashell