This revival of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me comes to us in a superlatively cast and beautifully paced production by Dominic Dromgoole.
This revival of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me comes to us in a superlatively cast and beautifully paced production by Dominic Dromgoole. The performances of the three actors give a quite hauntingly rich and humorous and heartbreaking sense of the hinterland of Frank McGuinness's characters - an American doctor, an Irish journalist and an English academic who find themselves chained up, as hostages, in a grim cellar in Beirut in the late 1980s.
There's a danger (not for me fully overcome in the original 1992 production) that this drama - in which the men pass through stages of mutual wariness and hostility, into forming a kind of mutual psychological support system, and then into pure love - will come across as a set of terrific performance opportunities for a bunch of leading actors. The hostage crisis throws up its very own Three Tenors concert, with the chance for solos, duets and trios.
To kill time and shore up their sanity, they play games, sing songs, improvise letters home and act out scenarios. The wacky reconstruction (by the Englishman and the Irishman) of Virginia Wade's win over Betty Stove in the 1978 Wimbledon final in front of a patently bored Queen is one of the funniest scenes in world drama with a lovely, needling political edge to it, too. Sometimes you might wonder if you were watching people in a cell or in a theatrical workshop.
It's a tribute to the excellence of the direction and extraordinary quality of the acting that only very occasionally and faintly do such thoughts crop up. There is something otherworldly and intensely human about Jonny Lee Miller. In this, he plays the American doctor, brooding, fidgety with anxiety, a gentle soul haunted by duties he can no longer perform for his family and, at one point, driven to a near-deranged screaming assertion of his God-given American superiority.
He's adroitly cast here, since the character has to have a beauty of person and character that inspires the other men to something that passes way beyond sexual attraction. Look at the intent way in which Aidan Gillen's terrific sardonic Irish journo and David Threlfall's superb, initially priggish but wise English has-been academic gaze at the Miller character when he shyly sings "Amazing Grace". They are lost in his performance and their eyes tell you how proud they are of this man who epitomises the reasons for not giving up faith in humanity just yet.
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