Friday, 28 July 2017

Review Your Ever Loving

A new drama using the letters of a wrongly-convicted man sheds fresh light for Francis Beckett on a disturbing miscarriage of justice.

Your Ever Loving
By Martin Mcnamara

After They Threw Away The Key

The voice of  Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four wrongly convicted of pub bombings carried out by the IRA on 5 October 1974,  speaks loud and clear across the years in this two-hander play based on his letters from prison.

With a confession beaten out of him by the police, he served 15 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.

Journalist-turned-playwright Martin Mcnamara discovered the letters in an archive and has turned them into a thoughtful, compelling piece of theatre.

Your Ever Loving is unmistakeably a radical journalist’s play. It uses, as far as possible, Hill’s own words to condemn the injustice done to him, and to provide an intensely theatrical cry of rage at a society that behaves in that way.

The casual cruelty of underpaid and under-regarded prison officers is a part of Hill’s story and there are too many other former prisoners attesting to it for us to doubt it.

“You’ve got a grandmother called Cushnahan?  She’s dead.”

The former MP Denis MacShane similarly describes the same brutality, insensitivity and just sheer incompetence during his recent and relatively short prison sentence for fiddling his expenses in his book Prison Diaries.

Your Ever Loving is, in short, an hour-long cry of outrage, held together as a piece of theatre by the interesting and sympathetic character of  Hill.

That it works theatrically is a tribute to the strength and economy of Mcnamara’s writing and to Stefan McCusker’s strong, thoughtful, low-key performance as Paul Hill.

Between them, playwright and actor have turned Hill from a mere victim into a human being the audience cares about.

Hill’s daughter was not born when he went to prison. She was 15 when he came out.  “I need to find softness and gentleness. I have a daughter” he says as he is brutalised by the prison system.

The only other actor, James Elmes, copes magnificently with more parts than I could count – prison officers and policemen, former Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, and even, on a couple of occasions, the author.

Director Sarah Chapleo skilfully paces the piece, also adding well-chosen music. The minimalist set has a bare wooden table as its centrepiece and feels a little like a prison waiting room.

Much political theatre, in its frenzy about the politics, forgets to be theatrical and starts to lecture the audience. Your Ever Loving does not make this mistake.

It holds the attention throughout, even though you know the ending.  A green light to rush off and see this fine polemical play, either in London until July 29 at the London Irish Centre or in Edinburgh  at the Underbelly from August 3..

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