Inspired cast holds audience captive with enthralling play

Hostages: from left, Alistair Cheetham, Simon Reece and Derek Smith
Hostages: from left, Alistair Cheetham, Simon Reece and Derek Smith
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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me: Halifax Thespians

I cannot imagine a better staged or better acted production of Frank McGuinness’s 1992 prize-winning masterpiece than this one by Yvonne Kniveton.

Inspired by the ordeals of Terry Waite and his fellow hostages, this brilliant play breathes life and humanity into a familiar but ill-understood international news headline.

We share the squalid cell (a claustrophobic set by Tim Kniveton and Leighton Hirst) where Adam, an American, Edward, an Irish journalist and Michael, a redundant teacher from English academe, find themselves after being taken hostage in Lebanon. Chained to the walls, with only the Koran and the Bible to read, shut off from daylight and with no hope of release, they are at the mercy of their unseen alien captors... and one another.

Alistair Cheetham (Adam), Simon Reece (Edward) and Derek Smith (Michael) were all superb, putting in moving, unsentimental and often hilarious characterisations. They did full justice to the sudden surges, ebbs and flows of McGuinness’s mercurial, naturalistic writing, making acting look so easy when it is anything but.

With only their luckless fate as captives in common they get to learn what are the really important things in life. They discover the transporting power of imagination to overcome boredom and frustration. Humour of the most unobvious kind helps to blot out the unspeakable suffering of their predicament. Most importantly, they can watch over one another.

When Michael discovers there is absolutely nobody to watch over him it is devastating to behold.

On until Saturday. Unmissable.

Julia Anderson