Despite its very specific setting in the Lebanon hostage crisis of the 1980s, there is something timelessly truthful about Frank McGuiness’ play. The piece depicts the plight of three captives, an Englishman, an Irishman and an American, but this is no joke. Restricting itself to the confines of the dank cellar in which the men are chained up, this could be almost any situation of human extremity, so it is not particularly surprising that New Celts and Inkwell Productions have decided that it is ripe for revisiting.
In order to fit the standard fringe time slot of just over an hour, McGuiness’ text has been trimmed and filleted for this production. Constructed as it is, as a loosely connected set of scenes within a space in which very little changes and even night and day seem not to enter, the play lends itself to cutting without losing much narrative clarity. Such cuts, however, also hack away at what make the piece what it is: the relationships. By robbing us of some of the funny, tender, tense and moving scenes that these three men share, the production makes it much more difficult to transport us to the eventual destination.
Their journey, however, does its best to move us. The impressive Christopher Cubitt as haunted Irishman Edward in particular holds the piece together, building a relationship with Al Mackenzie’s sweetly bumbling Michael that develops from ribbing antagonism to genuine love. Unfortunately it is Mark Toddie as American Adam who lets the final point of the triangle go blunt, delivering an overwrought performance that never allows us to feel his inner turmoil and the terrifying sensation that he is a “hunted animal”.
Amidst the three men’s monotonous waiting and insistent squabbling, the piece nudges at questions of nationality, religion and what it means to be human. For all this production’s flaws, by the time we arrive at its shattering conclusion the power of McGuiness’ understated writing breaks through, and the performances finally reach such a pitch as to truly transport us to this horrific situation.
*** – 3/5 stars
Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.