Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester – until 10 October 2015
This harrowing story written by Frank McGuinness tells the tale of three men taken hostage in the Lebanon. Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me first premiered in 1992 and took the theatre world by storm. Inspired by the hostage situations in the late 1980’s particularly those of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy the captives in the story are all invented by McGuinness. Michael Attenborough expertly directs this strong, often hard to watch, powerful play. Set in a cell in Beirut it tells of how these hostages get through this ordeal. Designed by Robert Jones the set is extremely creative giving you the claustrophobic feeling although sat in the open space of the auditorium. A single square with thin mats to sleep on, chained by their feet. Overhead we see pipes all seemingly filthy dirty and just a Koran and Bible to keep them company with no external contact to the outside world.
The play begins with Edward an Irish journalist (Rory Keenan) and Adam, an American doctor (Adam Rayner). They discuss how long they have been there. Adam appears to have been there the longest but you can already sense how through adversity and necessity they draw on each other for strength. Both Keenan and Rayner demonstrate the survival mentality and the recreation of the despair but tenacity and drive to get through the ordeal extremely well.
They are then joined by Michael, a British lecturer, (David Haig) Haig’s acting of the sheer panic and hysteria when the magnitude of the seriousness of his situation sets in is palpable. We bear witness to how they use their imaginations to get them through. The recalling of the 1977 Wimbledon women’s tennis final by Haig and Keenan brought much-needed light to the dark play. The scene changes cleverly made in blackouts, where the actors moved around the four corners of the cell floor were fascinating as it appeared to happen in seconds, and bearing in mind their feet were chained, it was as if someone just switched the light off and immediately on and they had changed positions silently to give you a different perspective. One of the most heart wrenching scenes to watch was when three became two and the harshness of the situation made you shiver in realisation that whilst fictional characters this was based on probable true life experiences. The attempts to remain sane and not allow madness to creep in was also illustrated throughout.
This is an excellent play of which the actors are truly inspirational in their acting skills and believable portrayal of anguish in a hostage situation. A thought-provoking play demonstrating how three men put in a precarious, life threatening situation can and will invariably have the survival instinct and determination to do anything to get them through the experience together.