The Donmar Warehouse
not only has a fine reputation for producing excellent theatre in
London, they also tour some of these productions, bringing their wares
to the regions.
In the North West, The Lowry has housed Mark Ravenhill’s The Cut, Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All The Luck and Manuel Puig’s Kiss Of The Spiderwoman, amongst others.
Be Near Me is a joint venture between the Covent Garden venue and the National Theatre Of Scotland and stars the highly acclaimed actor Ian McDiarmid.
On paper, a play which comes from such a wonderful pedigree as this one
should impress and this tale of longing and belonging certainly does
Adapted by McDiarmid from the novel by Andrew O’Hagan,
we follow the life of Father David Anderton (McDiarmid) as he tries to
inspire the teenagers within his community. Through his efforts, the
play explores themes of identity, war, race, faith, death and sexuality.
But, far from being a preachy play, this fascinating production
never patronises the audience and manages to involve you right from the
opening scene and this is down to the brilliant team effort of all
Father David’s character is deeply flawed, as his attempts to do
good are not completely selfless. He is silently grieving for the loss
of not only a friend but also himself. McDiarmid truly gets under the
skin of this fractured soul and it is very hard to take your eyes off
him as a result. His performance is stunning; a real masterclass in
As his cleaner Mrs Poole, Blythe Duff
also brings light and shade to her complex role, as this humble lady is
more realistic than the priest and senses that he is about to fall from
grace. Both Richard Madden and Helen Mallon are excellent as the two wayward teens that Father David tries to ’save.’
Of the supporting cast, Kathryn Howden
stands out via her sheer versatility in numerous roles. But the entire
cast give flawless performances. The narrative is puncuated by hymns
sung by the cast throughout and this adds a sense of melancholy and
authenticity to the proceedings.
The play itself asks many questions and McDiarmid’s adaptation does
not always answer them, but the play benefits from this ambiguity.
direction is solid throughout and the first half completely flies by,
as there is so much drama packed into one hour. The second half suffers
slightly in comparision as a courtroom scene feels slightly hackneyed
and out of place. Much of this element of the drama could have taken
place off stage and the play would not have suffered.
Minor quibble aside; although this is not in the same league as the National Theatre of Scotland’s groundbreaking Blackwatch, Be Near Me
is yet another example of how the Lowry’s relationship with some of the
finest theatre companies, enhances the theatre-going experience in