It is over 20 years since Brian Keenan was abducted in Beirut and taken hostage for four and half years. He was denied contact with the outside world, chained and subjected to abuse by his captors, the Islamic group Jihad. After his release, he spoke with Frank McGuinness, who was inspired to write this play.
We see three captives, an American, an Irishman and an Englishman, in a single dark, bare, room, chained to the floor, giving them room to move just a few metres each. We follow their emotional journey, their fright, their humour, their relationships and their reliance on each other. The writing is fantastic, and draws the audience into the wretched lives of the three men (suitably embodied by the hot, cramped and uncomfortable theatre!).
What is particularly touching about the play is the humour of the characters, and wit that develops as they mock each other. They are trying to ensure that they remain sane; such that their humour is sometimes cruel as their emotions jump from terror, to anger, and then to childish humour and role-play. We see them making up movies, re-enacting Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon Victory, bunny impersonations and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
The three young actors are all fantastic. Tom Weston-Jones plays Adam, the American, who is the seemingly most level-headed of the three, although you feel that he is always close to total despondency. Alasdair Buchan’s Michael, the English university lecturer, the most out-of-place from his comfortable middle-class society, is played with great self-mocking. He makes his character warm, and is touching, as he moves from his abject terror, finds his strength to fight the situation, but completes the full circle in the final moment of the play.
It feels impolite to specifically pick out one of the actors, but Joe Jameson’s performance as Edward is excellent. With his unwavering Irish accent, the sparkle in his eye and frequent grin on his face, he is the source of much of the arguing, derision and humour and therefore often takes the limelight. His abrasiveness, however, thinly veils his vulnerability, and of the three men, he needs the companionship of the others the most.
All round, the production is a wonderful advertisement for the great talent at the BOVTS. Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me runs until Saturday 22 May at the Alma Tavern Theatre.