Talisman review: Someone Who’ll Watch over Me
Three men held as hostages in a Lebanese prison cell are looking for a Great Escape. But make no mistake, this is not some Hollywood blockbuster. Their ‘escape’ is into a fantasy world of freedom, comfort and lost happiness. Frank McGuinness’s extraordinary play is based on the harrowing experiences of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy when they were snatched from the streets of Beirut in the 1980s and chained to the walls in a gruesome, dirty environment. It is a tale of endurance and survival. More than this, though, it is a tribute to the human spirit and how it can fashion significant resistance to an ordeal that threatens to crush all hope. For the Talisman, a director and three actors have needled their way into the skin of what could be a terrifying story. They deliver it with style, sensitivity and a superbly bold dash of humour. Rod Wilkinson successfully controls the various nuances of the piece. These revolve around strong visual impact and finding a pace to embellish the mood with effective silence or strident sound. There is no cliché here in the notion of an Englishman, an Irishman and an American being the representative trio. The very fact of their nationalistic differences is a key factor of how they are able to find an acceptable middle ground. The complexity of this is beautifully realised in Andrew Cullum’s twitchy academic Brit, Samuel Wall’s loud Irish extrovert and Mark Plastow’s introspective Yank. Together they savour imagined cocktail parties and mock-participate energetically in events like the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the 1977 women’s Wimbledon final. Underlying everything is their desperate need to retain sanity while constantly wondering if they will ever get out alive. It all works so well because of fine-tuning and a remarkable feeling of commitment by the team. They capture in every way the survival powers of imagination which are so cleverly contrasted between the play’s two acts. Despite what could be seen as a greyness of theme, this emerges as a provocative and exhilarating experience, and certainly a triumph for the Talisman.
For tickets go to: http://talismantheatre.co.uk/