By Alexander Marshall
Making a dreary, chair filled room in Elvet Riverside a believable prison cell somewhere deep in the Lebanon is not an easy task, but my sneak preview of Castle Theatre Company’s (CTC) Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me did just that. The play, which the cast and crew all strongly believe is a very special piece of theatre, follows three political prisoners in the Lebanon, “an Englishman, an Irishman and an American – which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke” as Director Tom Harper puts it. The play, fortunately for us, is anything but.
The cast of Andrew Shires, George Rexstrew and Adam Simpson are in their Director’s words “immensely good at what they do – bringing out the real emotion and hardships of the character“. Watching the play you very simply get to watch three different people cope with themselves and each other in confinement, battling insanity and ultimately doing their best to stay alive. You can’t help but become immersed in the journeys of these three very different people; as Producer Lucy Brotherton puts it, “it’s difficult to remind yourself that you’re not actually watching three political prisoners“. This effect is fostered by the efforts of the cast to really “get to grips with the characters’ history,” as Simpson explains. Watching them you feel that every time a characters snaps from sadness to happiness, it is rooted in their individual backstories and understanding of the roles. Rexstrew also believes that “audience members will relate to at least one of the characters on stage“, and this allows us to immerse ourselves more in the lives and struggles portrayed.
It would understandably be easy for a play of its nature to be depressing, but as Shires assures me, “there are so many feel-good moments – it’s not all doom and gloom, it covers the whole spectrum.“ Rexstrew and the rest of the cast are adamant that “there are so many real laugh out loud moments of humour.” A lot of the comedy of the piece stems from the moments in which we are “being immersed in the world of the individual characters’ fantasies,” whatever they may be. As far as the Norman Chapel permits, tech has been used to highlight these moments to make sure we don’t just believe in the world around the characters, but in what the characters feel, think and believe as they “escape into these ludicrous and quite hilarious scenarios.” The whole play, as Brotherton believes, is “a constant transition from very intimate and intense to very inward looking and thoughtful,” and we as audience members are fully invested in the story of these three characters.
Overall Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me promises to be a wholly unique experience. An entirely modern and relevant piece of theatre, set with “the roof of the prestigious Norman Chapel hanging over your heads.” It promises to be a true emotional roller-coaster, with Brotherton already admitting she’ll miss crying while watching rehearsals in all too familiar Elvet rooms. Through what Shires describes as “the switching of utter deliriousness and horror, to moments where you’re truly on a high,” you can’t help but feel for the characters, doing their best to stay afloat in an awful situation – a situation which for many “actually does happen, and is happening right now,” Rexstrew muses.
This production has a lot of ingredients to be a really special piece of theatre. From the beautifully human script, both touching, heart-breaking, and hilarious, to the truly unique world heritage venue that is the Norman Chapel and with a stellar, committed and visibly passionate cast and crew, CTC’s latest endeavour will be one you won’t want to miss.
‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’ will be showing at the Norman Chapel from Thursday, 1st of December until Sunday, 4th of December at 19:30. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Lucy Brotherton