By Colette Sheridan
Everyman, Cork: 4/5 stars
Frank McGuinnness’s 1992 play is a remarkable feat of the imagination. Inspired by the abduction in 1986 of Irishman Brian Keenan in Beirut, along with Englishman John McCarthy, the playwright put pen to paper while the hostages endured their lengthy captivity. He was working from a blank slate and famously refused to produce the play until the men were freed. Keenan would go on to give the play his blessing.
Decadent Theatre Company’s production is tense and at times, volatile, with the hostages venting their frustration at each other. But as Edward, the bolshie confrontational Irishman, played with passion by Diarmuid DeFaoite, says, the men might do their worst to each other, but the important thing is that their unseen Arab
captors do not break them.
Initially, there are two hostages; Edward and an American man, Adam. When an Englishman, Michael, joins the duo in their dark dungeon-like cell, he is asked whether there is talk in the outside world of a release effort. But Michael horrifies his two cell-mates when he says people are just getting on with their lives and besides, he isn’t up to speed on the political situation in the Middle East.
In their own way, the hostages try to get on with their extraordinary situation, using humour and even playfulness to pass the time.
But aggression and flashes of madness are never too far beneath the surface. However, side by side with this are moments of tenderness.Not least when one of the men is murdered.
The first act is too long at 90 minutes. There is no plot but much dramatic tension in a claustrophobic setting that mirrors the hostages’ suffocating sense of physical confinement. They desperately cling to their spirit in this timeless tale.