Butt Drama Circle present ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’ by Frank McGuiness

Setting

Synopsis

“We are in a decidedly perilous position, to put it mildly.”

Adam, an American doctor, Edward, an Irish journalist and Michael, an English academic, have little to unite them beyond being human in the same small space. Yet somehow, together, they determine to ward off madness and forestall despair.
Somewhere lurk their unseen captors yet, in the cell, there are stories of adventure and love, there is song and laughter, and even a surge of writing, cocktail-drinking and movie-making.
Inspired by the abduction of Brian Keenan – taken hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s – ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’ is playwright Frank McGuinness’s hymn to the defiant power of the human spirit and the creative imagination.

Cast

Edward Troy Devaney
Adam Jim McGowan
Michael Jim Holohan

Crew

Director JC Bonar
Stage Manager Pauric Havlin
Lighting JC Bonar
Sound Tracy Faulkner
Set Design JC Bonar
Make Up Kathleen McGowan
Stage Crew Brian Doherty
Cronan Scanlon
Pauric Duffy
James Russell

About The Group

The Butt Drama Circle from Ballybofey Co Donegal celebrates their 60th year this year and has competed in many drama festivals over the years. As well as the festival play each year the BDC stages our annual pantomime, A summer teenage musical, and product at least two other productions throughout the year and are the hosts of the Donegal Schools Drama Festival for secondary and national’s schools in the North West.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

Imelda McDonagh, Festival Adjudicator, referred to Frank McGuinness as one of Ireland’s most important contemporary writers. In Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, he evokes the real-life kidnappings of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy in the 1980s by the Hezbollah. The play opened in 1992 in London and later transferred to Broadway where it received Tony awards for Best Play and Best Actor and won the 1993 New York Drama Critics Award for Best Foreign Play.

Imelda McDonagh told the Athlone audience that we absorb such events as terrorism, kidnapping and the death of the innocent in press and tv headlines but rarely are we asked to consider the psychological toll of those caught in the middle. “Set in a filthy Beirut basement, this is an intense and layered study of identity in captivity,” she said.

McGuinness said in a recent interview that “a living theatre is a challenging theatre,” and tonight he certainly challenged the company. “Separately and together the actors must deliver the emotional journey through the men’s fear and horror, friendship and compassion, anger and jealousy, with lashings of black subversive humour,” said the Adjudicator. “There is no external stimulus to vary the pace; this piece must self-generate its own momentum.”

Butt Drama Circle’s setting was very effective, especially its shape and position. She queried if there should be a stronger sense of heat and dust, while some of the box-units looked unrealistic in this context. Set design was by JC Bonar and Stage Manager was Pauric Havlin.

The grimy t-shirts and shorts created strong visual differences between the characters. She praised the makeup by Kathleen McGowan, especially the redness from the ankle chain and suggested that Michael could have added dirt and grime during the scene transitions.

Lighting by JC Bonar was generally effective and well-cued. The adjudicator suggested that, in a realistic context, non-realistic lighting tended to draw attention to itself rather than support the action.

“The director (JC Bonar) gave us a very absorbing piece of storytelling with restraint, commitment and focus,” said the Adjudicator, “and created a convincing, emotional exploration of the effects of imprisonment and abandonment”. Movement was very well handled with well-focussed visual images. In such a sombre setting, the comedy was well delivered to create light relief, praising the tennis match and the car sequence as particular highlights.

Occasionally, clarity suffered, but improved as the play settled. While so much of the emotional range was captured, she would love to have seen more of the utter rage and despair explode, in order to show the horror of their situation.

“The silences worked very well, with some lovely subtleties of pace and rhythm which underscored the pathos and desolation of prisoners,” said the Adjudicator.

The three performances were very strong and internalised, with a great sense of ensemble and a lovely sense of interdependence”. Troy Devaney as Edward was a natural performer and storyteller, belligerent and aggressive who also showed deep compassion, a sense of humanity and powerful intensity in his breakdown.

Jim McGowan as Adam was very believable as the doctor, sombre and rational, and he flagged his mental deterioration very well. Although the sense of anguish could have been explored further, his rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ seemed like a death lament.

While Jim Holohan as Michael showed himself a great match for the other two captives, the Adjudicator suggested more panic and incredulity at the start. He delivered the comedy with great clarity and his last moments were very affecting.

The Adjudicator ended by saying that the production demonstrated the resilience of man in the face of insurmountable odds, delivered by a tight ensemble who exposed the emotional truth of long-term captivity.