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Emperor and Galilean – Madness, Mayhem, and Moriarty * 02 July 2011


Team Sherlockology are certainly packing in our theatre these days. On Friday July 1st two of our number headed to the National Theatre Olivier to see a performance of Emperor and Galilean. Our principle interest of course was Andrew Scott - Jim Moriarty in Sherlock - in the lead role. It was our second time at the Olivier this year, having previously seen Danny Boyle's production of Frankenstein there with Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller - Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Miller as the monster, if you were wondering, since we weren't in existence when we saw the performance and were thus unable to review it. In a nice moment, when we entered and seated ourselves, the ringing of bells as the audience assembled reminded us hugely of Boyle's play - although they were not as jump inducing, it must be said.

Emperor and Galilean has an extremely chequered past. Written by Henrik Ibsen, the play took nine years to go from conception to final written word, and was not performed on stage for another twenty three years. The 2011 production at the NT Olivier is the first time the play has ever been performed in English.


Now, don't get us wrong, but it is easy to see why all this is the case. Even cut down from its original length of approximately eight hours to roughly three and a half, Emperor and Galilean is an epic, sprawling piece of theatre. The play is full of complex, challenging ideas regarding religion, personal freedom and ambition, the protagonist's path leading from timid, trapped vulnerability to madness and death.

Initially, the play seems portentous. There are few reference points to grab hold of in the opening scenes, and the initial modern dress of the cast requires a slight rewiring of the brain to accept the talk of the ancient world. Once you are settled into it however, it is a rich and rewarding work, with a couple of flashes of humour mixed amongst the drama and eventual horror. And we should point out the horror, as there are a couple of moments of superb stage gore make up that are extremely disquieting - well, the lady member of the Team in attendance visibly recoiled in revulsion at one point anyway…


As the lead, Julian, Andrew Scott almost explodes off the stage, veering from genuine happiness, sadness, and passionate anger - a man possessed with the notion of conquering the religion that failed him. He is lent superb support by Ian McDiarmid, best known as Emperor Palpatine in four parts of the Star Wars saga, as Maximus - a mystic who leads Julian off the path of Christianity, away from his closest friends, and eventually to ruin. Surrounding both of them is a company of fifty others, often filling the entirety of the expansive Olivier stage in a sea of colour and song. Later, the costume design develops accents of historic style mixed with the existing modernity, reinforcing the timeless nature of the personal struggle Julian finds himself waging. And as with Frankenstein, the unique stage of the Olivier theatre is utilised brilliantly, multiple levels rising and falling out of the rotating circular section throughout the scenes. It is a brilliant production, and if you are able to go before it finishes on Wednesday August 10th 2011, do so.

After the play had concluded, we decided it would be remiss if we didn't attempt to see Andrew Scott at the stage door, being Team Sherlockology and all. After a short amount of hanging around, where the one of us with the camera so got bored he started snapping everything in sight, while the other was so afraid of missing anyone coming out she daren't look down into her bag for a much needed bottle of water, the cast started to emerge.  After Ian McDiarmid slipped out of the surprisingly quiet stage door without being stopped, Andrew Scott appeared. And we have to say, he is by far one of the loveliest and most genuine people you could ever hope to meet - personable, interested, completely unrushed, and happy to have a chat - all the more remarkable after a no doubt exhausting performance of the type we had just seen.

After shaking our hands and posing for pictures - pulling a Moriarty frown as a joke before we took his solo shot - he told us he had filmed a couple of days on Sherlock Series 2 thus far - for Episode 3, The Reichenbach Fall - and had more to come inbetween his days onstage. He seemed truly pleased at the recognition the part of Moriarty has given him, despite his appearances in other major works on both sides of the Atlantic, and was full of enthusiasm for what we'll all be seeing in series 2 when it arrives. He also currently doesn't know how that pesky cliffhanger is resolved at the start of the series, as the script for Scandal in Belgravia remains under lock and key [and writing, last time we heard].

But to us personally, perhaps the most surprising thing he told us was when we informed him that we were from Sherlockology - "Oh yes, I've heard about you…"

Should you be worried when Jim Moriarty says that to you?

Well, we'd plump for no, as he is by far the most charming and nicest Consulting Criminal you could ever hope to meet.