You won't regret Watching Over this!

Someone to Watch Over Me, Frank McGuinness

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We are bombarded by horrific headlines of innocent people being taken hostage by Jhadist supporters in the Middle East and closer to home the plight of those in social isolation, folk being marginalised by society caused by a myriad of obstacles: language, poverty, unemployment, dementia or mental health conditions.   Rarely do we get a glimpse into how people actually survive on a day-to day basis.

Frank McGuiness’s 1992 play, Someone to Watch Over Me is a fly on the wall, most likely a cockroach in this case, view of complete deprivation and isolation from the outside world.   It is based on the experiences of hostages Terry Waites, Brian Keenan and John McCarthy who were kept in captivity in the Lebanon during the 1980s for several years.

Last year reading two books about surviving unimaginable situations, (Emma Donoghue’s ‘The Room’ and Viktor E Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’) it struck me how creativity and imagination become a fierce psychological weapon against the tyranny of oppression and against the unbearable realisation that you have absolutely no control over your destiny.  There is no use in pounding the walls or screaming for help if no one can hear you.  These are the actions of victims and antagonising the commanders of whether you live or die is not going to work.

In this play, the three hostages have no contact with the outside world whatsoever.   Nothing.   The outside world is a deathly silence.  Does anyone know we are here?   Do they know where we are? Are they doing anything about it?  Are we about to be shot?  

International tension in the cell causes fighting between the Irishman and the Englishman about who caused the potato famine, while the American focuses on keeping his sanity by strenuous push ups and running on the spot.   Perversely, the chains that shackle them to the walls, protect them from destroying each other. 

Their biggest enemy is boredom and the politic and religious sparring rounds, keep them psychologically fit whilst living with the threat of impending torture.  These ordinary blokes find themselves in the role of actors, reliving movies, musicals and memories.  Both these tactics provide comic relief for both the captives and us, the cockroaches on the wall.

Director James Robert Auheb breathes life into this play that could have been written now, supported by his cast, Terry Jermyn, Matthew Curran and Owen Lindsay who together reveal the vulnerability and humour of their characters.   Designer Finbar Cahill’s brilliant sound and visual installations not only create a backdrop to the imaginations of these survivors but remind us of the international political shenanigans occurring at that time.   

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