by Frank McGuinness.

Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 12 May 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 May.

Fine revival of hostage drama.
It doesn’t take long for the past to acquire a golden glow, and Frank McGuinness’s 1992 hostage drama, set in Lebanon, seems almost cosy in the post-9/11 days of bombers by underpants and shoe, and televised executions of kidnapped westerners.

McGuinness doesn’t go much for plot. Only Englishman Michael, the new arrival in the room, with its wall-radiator and chains, gives any account of how he was abducted, as he wakes, confused, to find himself with quiet American Adam and fiery (Northern) Irishman Edward.

The play acquired instant status and has been frequently produced, combining a small cast, cheap set and apparent political relevance. Yet it says little about the political situation, while the captors never appear. What matters is the way the trio’s situation affects them and their relationship as they’re confined together.

Even here, the play doesn’t go beyond basic characteristics. This Englishman, Irishman and American aren’t national ‘types’, but they’re set within a few characteristics as they seek to cover their fear, Adam by retreating into physical and mental fitness, with exercises and Koran or Bible reading, Edward putting anger and vehemence into fantasies of freedom, with explosive mockery of the English newcomer.

Who’s a dry old academic stick, initially too angrily confused to join their flights of freedom fantasies, then awkward in attempts at humour, breaking out in rage at Edward’s jibes, before retreating into fragments of Early and Middle English poetry to restore sense to the world.

For all its variety of incident, the play seems manufactured, plotted by the playwright in a calculated contrast of mood, forever presenting the familiar character aspects.

But if there’s ever been a production to see, it’s probably this by Jessica Swale. Designer Simon Kenny’s huge black screens slide back from a V-formation to reveal the scruffy room. Joseph Timms catches the underlying fatalism of an American kidnapped in the Middle East, Billy Carter handles Edward’s storming energy and whiplash fury as outcomes of frustration. And, magnificently, Robin Soans lights an interior for his character, wistful, wondering and finally, alone, a tragic, bearded pixie in the big bad world.

Edward: Billy Carter.
Michael: Robin Soanes.
Adam: Joseph Timms.

Director: Jessica Swale.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Christopher Naime.
Sound: George Dennis.
Voice coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Assistant directors: Jon Pashley, Jonathan O’Boyle.

2012-05-09 10:39:30

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