Review: Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

'A work of art ending in a standing ovation'.
‘A work of art ending in a standing ovation’.

A play of confinement, loss, grief, denial – CTC’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me captured male companionship in its raw state and painted a deeply emotional picture of man in anguish, slowly losing grip on reality. A play which concerns keeping innocent people hostage is extremely relevant today, especially because of the political instability in the Middle East, however in my eyes the play came to life not as a political or social phenomenon, but as a poignant and tragic portrayal of human beings relying on and helping each other through distress and confinement.

Frank McGuinness managed to produce a script which infuses deeply emotive language with frequent scenes of absurdity, outbursts of violence and laughter, all balanced together perfectly; just as the dialogue got too heavy on the heart there was momentary comic relief after which the emotionality of the play hit you even harder than before. The script possesses the ability to tear at your heart-strings and sow them back together in a matter of seconds. Not only did the play constitute of episodic stories within a story, but the way that these stories were told to us was breath-taking. From the characters’ direct interactions, to writing letters, to movies, to songs, each scene portrayed a different dynamic of the psyche of a man in agony, working cohesively to form an assortment of raw human emotion.

We were presented the haunting coping mechanism that is the rampant imagination, showing the ways that these men distanced themselves from their bleak reality by travelling through time and space. Though the scene of the first ‘movie’ was sprung upon us quite suddenly and seemed a little out of place, the rest of the imaginative scenes worked soundly within the play as the audience started to get the hang of what was occurring. Moreover, the performance illustrated both the destructive influence men can have on one another and their ability to develop strong emotional connections – it revealed the most beautiful corners of the human soul as well as the most frightened, desperate and irrational ones. At heart, this is much more than a sad story of 3 men – it captures human emotions and relationships in their absolute purest forms.

The actors did an impeccable job at communicating the emotions of their characters onto the audience – what they felt, we felt thrice. In every case, character development was clear and believable; every actor was strong and consistent throughout. The characters truly blossomed before the audience, exposing their darkness, their humour, fear, torment and denial. The actors worked together very naturally, their chemistry shining through every interaction. The scene when Edward, portrayed by George Rexstrew, visits his father’s grave revealed a whole new dimension to his character and certainly was one of the most well directed and powerful scenes in the whole play. Rexstrew was a charming, funny, well established character. Andrew Shires’ performance as Michael seemed to be thought through to every glance, every little twitch – all worked well together to form a complete picture of McGuinness’ Englishman. A moment of great interest was Adam Simpson’s ‘Amazing Grace’ scene; though Adam gave all he could within his heart-shattering performance, the scene could have been staged more smoothly with even more emphasis and depth; I felt it was a good climax to the play yet I was left wanting to see just a little bit more of it, get that extra minute to fully appreciate it. Not only did the actors look very good together on stage, they each managed to perform so differently, taking such a unique angle on their specific character, that each of them was very distinguishable and engaging. Each accent and manner was held to and the characters were convincing, and above all human.

No venue in Durham could have suited the play better than the Normal Chapel – haunting stone walls, cobweb and cracks in the walls created a claustrophobic aura, enabling director Tom Harper to reproduce the feeling of confinement the characters are subject to. The production team took a play which involves 3 men sitting in a room and transformed it into a work of art. Two columns in the middle of the acting space worked beautifully by letting actors lean on them in all the right moments as well as providing guides for symmetry and well thought-through staging. The dirtied faces of the actors looked great on set, yet the costumes looked just a notch too well put together for victims of confinement who have been held captive for as long as 6 months. The lighting engagingly echoed the progression of the play, helping to distinguish between the reality and imagination of the characters even when they seemed to lose grasp of that difference. Shadows worked well, adding that extra bit of darkness to the setting. The music was powerful, songs were touching, scene changes few and swift. The performance shined technically.

Writing on a production such as this seemed to me extremely difficult, firstly due to the sheer amount of content one can comment on, and secondly because I found that often words failed capture and tie down exactly what was unravelling before us on the stone cold floor of the Norman Chapel. Ending in a standing ovation, the opening night of CTC’s dazzling production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me left the audience in pieces.

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