REVIEW: Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

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Until October 10

It’s proving a real golden patch in the Minerva just at the moment.

Hot on the heels of the superlative For Services Rendered comes the similarly-impressive Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Frank McGuinness’ tale of the human spirit fighting back in the face of the worst that fellow humanity can throw at it.

On the barest of stages, three men are chained to the floor, hostages in the Lebanon.

But McGuinness’ drama isn’t interested in the bleakness of it all; far more interestingly, he explores the strategies by which the prisoners cope – and therein lies the cut and thrust of a dialogue brilliantly delivered as changing patterns, changing allegiances emerge in the kaleidoscope of their captivity.

David Haig, Rory Keenan and Adam Rayner play respectively Englishman, Irishman and American, academic, journalist and doctor – three different personalities from three very different worlds forced together.

At times they variously goad and rile, determined to keep anger alive; and at times they drift off into the maddest flights of fancy, serving imaginary drinks, acting in their own films and even recreating the 1977 ladies final at Wimbledon.

The words keep tumbling out as the spirit remains unbroken – though initial coping is illusory while inner strength takes its time to show through.

The result is fascinating. As they joust with each other, revisit their pasts and try to imagine for themselves a better present, the three actors are quite mesmerising, directed with huge skill and sensitivity by Michael Attenborough to bring out performances the audiences will savour for years.

Haig, Keenan and Rayner try desperately to cling on, but the fear is always there. The shock at the start of the second half is chilling.

The piece is intense, rich, provocative, remarkably amusing – and quite superbly done, wrenching hope from the worst possible circumstances and in extremis celebrating the strength, or probably instinct, which won’t buckle.

Haig’s character is possibly the most fully realised, but Keenan and Rayner bring their characters sparklingly to life too; and they work beautifully together and against each other for a haunting night at the theatre.

Phil Hewitt

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