The 20th anniversary production of Frank McGuinness’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me takes its audience to a Lebanon hostage cell in which languish Adam (American), Edward (Irish) and Michael (British). By turns they attempt to both predict and ward off and their fate using futile hypotheses, tales of home and illusory game-play.
With its winding access and vague rumblings, Southwark Theatre is a venue worthy of Simon Kenny’s inspired set design which alone makes this production worth a visit.
Beirut may no longer occupy the same place in popular consciousness that it did when the play was first performed but there are obvious contemporary comparisons that make the play’s identity politics dishearteningly relevant.
Questions surrounding the relationship between nation and individual come to the fore when nationality is the basis for unlawful imprisonment; the emotional extremes resulting from the characters’ encounters with their selves and each other drive the play’s action, notably the complex relationship between Edward and Michael which places the troubles of British and Irish history under a microscope and articulates McGuinness’s interest in national policy and individual psyche.
Billy Carter delivers the stand-out performance as the gregarious but fallible Irish journalist and Robin Soans is strong as Michael.
At over two and a quarter hours long the emotional strains become repetitive at times and the challenge of balancing these requires an almost impossible subtlety of control from its three actors, a tough challenge which perhaps comes too early for young star Joseph Timms whose portrayal of Adam does not fully convey his character’s motivation and who is hampered by an unconvincing American accent.
But this slick production succeeds in depicting a difficult period of history for a modern audience while posing some uncomfortable questions for our equally disturbing times.