Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me | Pre-Show Talk | Chichester Festival Theatre

Ladies & Gentlemen, it’s wonderful to see so many of you here this evening to have an incredible treat. Because not only do we have Michael
Attenborough making his CFT debut as the director who is here but we also have
the author Frank McGuinness. Yes thank you! I wonder who they thought you might have been, if not Frank McGuinness? My evil twin! Terrible, he gets me into terrible trouble. You know you can blame everything on him. I expect many of you have been to all of the shows in the Minerva over this wonderful season. The show that is opening tomorrow night, “Someone who’ll watch over me” is the last of this season and it is one of the most extraordinary
productions I think I’ve seen for some time, not just here, and what we’re going to do as usual is talk as if we were having a private conversation that you are
watching and then we’ll take about ten minutes of questions at the end. I’m
going to do an introduction to both Michael and Frank just in case any of you
haven’t yet read your programs and then we’ll get going. You know that one of the
things that CFT has been trying to do this year is have a range of plays that
look at and think about not just war but the consequences of war the consequences
of conflict and crisis and this is the second of those following on from the
Somerset Maugham that I know many of you saw “For Services Rendered”. So on my
far right is Michael Attenborough and he is one of the great directors of our
time. He has worked in many places, I started to write them all down Colchester, Leeds, the RSC, Young Vic,
Hampstead and then thought, this is silly now. But many of you of course will have
known him as running the Almeida Theatre from 2002 to 2013 and making that
theatre the best “off Broadway” theatre as it were, that the country has got. We
are delighted that Michael is here for his CFT debut. Sitting in the middle, the “evil twin” of Frank McGuinness – what would you like to be called as the evil
twin? I think “Evil” will do. Mr evil in the middle very appropriately
is the award-winning playwright Frank McGuinness. 12 amazing plays that you
will have heard of but you also will I suspect know “Someone who’ll watch over me” which first came out in 1992 and has been reproduced since then but this is
very special to have it here. The first of Frank’s plays was “Factory Girls” in1982 and one of the most wonderful plays which I think is being revived at the
Abbey next year – & go on tour in the UK. It’s observed the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme which first came out in 1985 and is a most searing
play about the men that went and as we sit here to do it in Sussex we
have a similar link with that. In the first World War on the eve of the Somme the
battle of the Boar’s Head all the Sussex regiments were wiped out in the space of
a couple of hours and it’s known here as the day Sussex died. So it has a particular
resonance, your play, for different reasons here. So the play “Someone who’ll watch over
me”, Frank, is inspired, but not about, the
hostage crisis and the hostages that many of us first heard of on the news. Terry Waite, Brian Keenan, John
McCarthy. So how did you start to think that this was a play you wanted to write
was it a friendship was it an idea where did the first idea come from? Well, so many of my plays have their
origins in my late mother’s strange imagination. She came from a particular generation of
Irish people who had a very profound and very practical faith (Catholicism). And it took an extremely simple style of belief. She would pray on her knees (she was not a fanatic) but she would pray on her knees for maybe half an hour every night. The TV was going and all the the rest of it and she always prayed for Brian. Always and ever. She prayed for him because she wanted
him to get safe but she also particularly prayed for him because she believed he
looked like me. Brian does not remotely look like me. But my mother thought he
did look like me and she kept dropping not very subtle hints. Not that I should
pray from him because she knew that was a “no no”. But that maybe I should try to do
something to publicize what this poor fellow was
going through. The fact that when I finished my degree, the first job I was offered was in Libya This was in the ’70s when there was nothing happening in Ireland and the fact that she was the one who said that if I went to Libya, I wouldn’t be killed there, I’d
be killed getting on the plane because she would do it! That connected us even more. So she had this very strong desire that I would do something about Brian and John and the rest of it. In her
indirect way she was leading me to this subject. At the time I was questioning my
whole play-writing ability and what was I doing with things and what was I at. I was a stage in my career where I was 10 years after the “Factory Girls” and I decided
to go into a rehearsal space and have a play there that had absolutely nothing to say about itself other than it’s language. It’s politics would be broad in their
National appeal. England, America, Ireland. Subtle and its sexual confrontations
between three men. The story all started to click. The final part of the whole set up was hearing the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald (out of the blue) singing “Someone to watch over me” I’m thinking there is a great title, there is a fabulous title. I was reading as part of the research the
Quran and I discovered this chapter in the Quran where repeatedly they say “remember you that over there there are watchers”. I thought well that’s it now, I’m off, I’m
flying! I sat down and I did the first draft of the play and it came with remarkable speed, not too easily but with remarkable speed. Then I rewrote and added. For the first time really ever I was adding rather than taking things out. And it went from there actually. That was it. We had the various
ups and downs of trying to get a production. I met Brian. Brian was out by this stage. Did you say to him, “Can I come and meet you?” No, no, what I said to him was, I was working in Galway, directing a play in Galway, I got some time off. Brian was living and Mayo and he was a close friend of friends of mine. We
managed to get word to him that the play was going to be read on a Sunday night in the theatre I was working in. My friend told him “It’s suggested by your situation it’s not about you”. He came to see it. Were you nervous? I was crapping myself! (A technical term, Ladies & Gentlemen) He is a very shy, private man but he was extremely supportive and we met and we talked
and the only thing he asked for – he didn’t ask for any changes to the play – but just asked that it not be performed until John was released. John McCarthy. At that stage I don’t think it’s any big secret to know that Brian was convinced that John would die. Absolutely convinced that he would die. I
give them my word of honor that it would not happen until we knew that John was
going to get out. I told him, I said was he will be freed. The day he was freed, the play went out. We wanted to see if we could get it done.
It was taken with enormous rapidity. I had worked with Michael at Hampstead so I had this big bond with Hampstead but Michael had left Hampstead at that stage and Jenny Topper was there. Jenny came back very quickly and should we’re going to do it. We got the cast we were looking for and we got the designer and everything went well. Was your Ma around to see that you had done something? She knew it had happened but she wouldn’t come, she never went to London in her life, she wasn’t that kind. Well she went to Lourdes and got food poisoning. My brother said she was the only Irish woman ever to go to Lourdes and come back in a wheelchair. So I think London would have been way beyond for her. Michael, one of the things that Frank
was just saying about this this idea of it being absolutely about men and the
emotions and the language and the politics gives the director a heck of a
challenge because in the end it is three people confined in a cell. There can’t be
scene changes really. There can’t be new people coming on. There’s not different
lighting. So you’ve worked together and you know each other but when you started to approach this did you have an idea of what you wanted as the design, how you
were going to do? What was your first entry point into working with Frank in this production? I should say that what sounds like a limitation for a director with the format of this play is my idea of heaven. That for me, putting
three people in a space and saying we’re going to see these three people inter-relate for the next following number of hours, is my idea of bliss. I will engage with the vast mechanics of theatre when I need to. I have done eight Shakespeares so you have to. But you know the idea of just three
people in the space, three people. Two of them we meet and they’ve spent
two months together and then we see the third person arrive and we see them
form their relationships from nothing. It’s so riveting to me and there’s a kind of
melting pot element to this play which again is heaven to me. This is that there’s no choice. I will digress but it’s one of the major challenges of
doing this play in this space because anybody who’s worked in thrust stages
like this will tell you that the secret to enabling the audience to have visual
access to this is to keep people moving. That’s not possible in this play where they are chained to the floor. So that’s been quite challenging. But of course the plus is that you’re right in
the room with them and you see them sculpturaly. We have lit it sculpturaly. But that element of being forced to relate, you can’t go anywhere. Quite early on one of the characters says:- We either are civilized to each other,
we either look after each other, or we’re going to go mad. So there’s choice here. We’re in this together. Because the play is about three people from very
different countries equally divided by a common language what one of the
fascinating elements in the play is indeed the way in which people identify
that their own sense of who they are and their own sense of how they relate to
other people through language. Through their use of language, through even the music of language. We’ve got three different accents in this play. The older I’ve got the more absolutely fascinated I am by language. Since I’ve become a complete Shakespeare-ophile I’ve become even more fascinated about it. This takes an Englishman, an Irishman & an American, but the Englishman, and I haven’t actually told Frank this yet, but the Englishman is an expert at Old & Middle English and without giving the play away he at one point says I love my country
because I love its literature. His understanding of his country comes
through his sense of the history of the development of the language. I
have to tell you I am in no way an expert in Old English but in my research I realize it’s a completely different language. It is much more like
German than it is English. My grandfather, my father’s father was a specialist in Old English. Also, bizarrely, my
grandmother (you will understand the significance of this) died in a car
accident prematurely. Extraordinary. I won’t spoil the play for you but I’m just giving something away. Within 24 hours of receiving in the post the first paperback reissue of the one book that my grandfather wrote about the
Anglo-Saxon period we started rehearsals for this play. It was quite uncanny. So there it is, it’s called “The Laws of the Anglo-Saxon Kings” translated by FL
Attenborough and I was very moved by that. There was this man, self-taught man who went to Cambridge and was absolutely riveted by those old poems.
But how do three people thrown together who can’t literally touch each other, how do they relate? They relate by what they say. The relationships are entirely based on language. How you say language, how you use language and of course as crucially how you hear language. I find this fascinating. I’m
making it sound like it’s a linguistic exercise. It couldn’t be anything less. Actually it’s a very, very emotional play, as you can as you can imagine. But that’s the vehicle through which the
relationships are conducted. They have no choice. Watching it, I certainly felt that was what was incredibly powerful. One was the sense of maleness, what does it mean to be a man and how do men relate to other men? Secondly the idea that the
only thing that can save you is stories, in that situation. So the way that the
language to start with is brittle and combative in some ways it’s their
weapons too. Then there’s a falling away, and it is always that threat
underneath it all that the one thing is not just that you might be taken off and
executed but that you will go mad. There is the sense that going mad actually might be worse. Well the circumstances of course are that everything is taken away from you. Everything. I have a theory that the
most potent four letter word in the English language is the word “Home”. “ET phone home”. We all know what “Home” means. That’s why one of the most miserable
words in the English language is “Homeless”. They’ve lost their home, they’ve lost everything, and so all they have as they sit in this cell is who
they are. Their sense of themselves, their sense of identity is entirely
related to nationality and to the sound of their voices and to their history.
So as they battle to hold onto themselves and their sanity (as you just
put it) their sense of Nationality becomes increasingly important. It’s
fascinating watching across the play how “Nationality” starts as a weapon and
slowly as the play progresses turns into an embrace. They reach across the sea to each other. In this case they reach across the cell and
they look after each other. Indeed there are, as you’ll see in the
play, the resonances of Frank’s title are that actually the people “who watch over
them” are each other. But the issue of nationality is significant in a different sort of way as you were saying, Frank, when you were talking about Brian not believing that John would ever be released in in the real world as opposed
to the imagined inspired characters. Because an Irishman was neutral, a Brit
was not and you chose to make the third an American, rather than another Brit. So was that a sense of the axis of nationality within that part of the world? Did it seem important to have the third as an American given how
significant “Americanism” is within that? Is that why you did that rather
than have another Brit? No it wasn’t really actually, to go back to Michael’s point about language, I wanted to work with what I regarded as the three great dialects of English. Scots would choose another, Australians would choose another.
to choose another friend for choosing But I wanted Irish, American and English. The music of the languages. So those three would be be there and
heard. There was also at that time, maybe still is, a very racist anti-americanism about. Almost as if when an American citizen was shot they deserved it. I found that such a revoltingly racist attitude. So I wanted to create a character, Adam, who would be confused being. A difficult being and in many ways
contradictory being but also an admirable man. I also wanted him to be of sufficient beauty in every respect that the Irish man could – not “fall” for him in
an erotic or romantic way – although who knows… but certainly that you could understand why he would become close to him. It would be a lot easier for an Irish person to get close to an American man. So that’s really why Adam is there in the
shape that he’s in and with the Nationality he has. It was an acknowledgement number from a lawyer that everybody held in the terrible position that these men were held. That they had a right to be released. That
was their dominant human right, to be released. They themselves were not representative of a government. They were true human beings with true human relations and you watch them build up those friendships and those intimacies between each other
which I hope is the embodiment and the dramatisation of what they’re like when they’re outside as well. I think that was something I truly wanted to get across. You mentioned earlier this persistant, almost paralysing terror of being shot, of
living under sentence of death. I think that to some extent the Irish and the
English captives were living under that. The American captives were living much more close to the edge. They were much more in need of confronting their own end. Adam in his way does it through calming
the other two. But in fact what he’s doing in his professional way, is calming himself as much as possible. Then when that veneer of control collapses you see the frightened human being
that is there. Ee’s well aware that his status as American makes him, if you like, and in a terrible way, “powerful”. But he’s powerful now only insofar as the first to go will be him, if anyone has to go. I wanted to to pay respect respect to those hostages who were
American and who did die. I wanted to pay respect to them as Brian would have wanted to as well. I’d written the play before I met him. I’d written it before I saw his fear for John. When I saw his fear for John it really dawned on me that this man knows how visceral the terror of death is for those
held in this situation. He knows how urgent it is and how necessary it is that you keep your energy up, that you keep (not to your denial) but you keep your intelligence working so that you have to refuse to bow down to the terror. You will not do that.
You will keep “yourself” regardless of having no power over yourself. Exactly! One of the things that I was thinking when I was watching was that the rapport between the three actors was amazing. So I had two questions. 1) Did you encourage the actors to go and
read some of the real experiences? Brian has written about it, Terry has, John has. Other people have as well. Or did you leave that up to them?
Secondly, Michael, did you group audition them? Because I know often in plays you have the “lead” then you put people around the
“lead”. But this is so much a piece that is about those three and the shifting
power. I wondered if, although they are really experienced “grown-up” actors you did actually need to see them with each other to see if they
could see the beauty in each other, as Frank said? To answer the first question I was thinking about that when we talked about Keenan and Waite and McCarthy.
I think there’s a kind of waiting terror for actors when they play people that
bear a strong resemblance to real people. I did a play about heroin addiction and I knew that the cast were really frightened about
being authentic and in a sense representing the addicts. I
mean truthfully and properly. I think, in my own personal opinion, you have to be very careful about how you encourage actors to research. So I have a very simple policy, which is that I do as much as possible. I send messages to the actor saying do as little as possible. I will arrive on day one and I will guide you to what I think you need to look at.
Because otherwise you can fill yourself with a lot of pointless
research but worse you can actually develop the sense that “I can’t possibly live up to all this research”. It’s not possible. So I read “An Evil Cradling”, I read John
McCarthy’s book I read Terry Waite’s book. They have differing uses in lots
of ways. I think probably Brian’s is the most helpful. But the point is that Frank didn’t write a documentary . Not only did he not write a documentary, he
wrote a play about three very different people, in particular two very different
people to Brian and to John. He’s deliberately, almost mischievously, reversed their professions. Keenan, the Irish character is a
journalist and the English character is the academic. I was emphasising to them again and again that it was only the physical circumstance being in prison that was helpful. In terms of finding a character – forget it. I’m a great believer – and I do this rigorously with most plays I do now but particularly the Shakespeare and as careful as meticulous a linguist as
Frank – I say don’t go into a corner and invent a character. Forensically
examine the text because everything that you need to know will be there
because everything that the audience needs to know will be there because Frank will have put it there . If he didn’t put it there it isn’t necessary for the audience. You could argue even that it isn’t essential for the actors to know. So the research was very guided and meticulous. What was your second question? Whether you made a decision to audition groups? The audition process for this play was very eccentric. I thought it might be. Not intentionally so
but I was originally brought this play by a commercial producer wanted to
produce it in in the West End and commercial producers have one basic criteria, they want huge box-office names and they don’t grow on trees. With great respect to Frank’s magnificent play, the fact is it’s been done several times. So
the idea of coming back and doing Frank’s play wouldn’t necessarily be a
career-defining moment for a David Tennant or somebody of that box office ilk. So when we weren’t getting the box office names that the management wanted, frankly I
didn’t care about it. I mean if you got a box office name that would be brilliant that was fine by me. But my concern is what happens in the rehearsal room, not what happens in the box office. So when we came to to Chester I was suddenly liberated to cast the best actors irrespective of their box office pull.
By that time actually David Haig had said said “yes” to Michael which is great. He’s a very well-known actor. If we’d found “names” for the other two parts it would have gone to the West End. I decided that Edward the Irishman was the next person I should cast and again this was the freedom I was granted. because a lot of the names we were talking about pre-Chichester weren’t Irish because
the number of huge Irish names are not many. (And Liam Neeson isn’t right for the part). Laughter. So the field suddenly opened up and I could actually see some top, top, Irish actors. I saw several. If you ever asked me to act on a stage I’d run a mile but I am actually a frustrated actor. So auditions are great fun to me because I
can read in, you see. I knew even though the character is called Michael I was struggling to to give my poor Irish actors somebody to bounce off. So I asked
David if he’d come in and read with the Irish actors that I was short-listing,
just to give them a fair chance. It wasn’t about chemistry. Finally that’s my job and I just sort of feel that even if David had been in the Antarctic
I still would have had to cast this part. The reason I say it was eccentric is that in casting Adam Lee as the American, I’d virtually decided to
cast someone whom I’d seen amongst a lot of actors that I’d seen. Then my brilliant casting director said there’s one other person you must see. There’s a slight problem, he’s in Budapest. So how are we going to do this? Well he’s going to put together a video audition for you. I said “Do you meen I’m not going to meet him? I need to see if I can work with him, see if he takes direction, that sort of thing.” Difficult in Budapest. So, anyway Adam did put it down and it was absolutely astonishing. It really was a lesson to me that actually I smelt talent. I knew he felt in his bones who
this person was. So then we had a Skype conversation where basically you discover whether you share the same sense of humour. I think if you share the same sense of humour you can work with someone. We discovered very quickly that we did and the rest is history. That is the first time I’ve ever cast anybody from Skype. How amazing, that was not the answer
I expected but there we are. Maybe that is part of it. When it starts
you do feel that there is a strong relationship between the two men
who are there. You feel, not protective of it but you don’t want the new guy
to spoil it. That I think is a sign of a great play. A great production. Frank will, I’m sure concur with this that in any production I cast very carefully. It might seem I cast eccentrically from
this process but I cast very carefully because I don’t just cast people who can play the parts I cast people who I know will collaborate. If you have non-collaborative actors in a rehearsal room it’s deadly. I’ve been unlucky to have
that very very very rarely. But I work very hard and I talk to other people about those actors. I check them out. I literally get references on them. Which indeed I did with my three. They all got glowing references from people they’d worked with. In this play of all plays you could not walk into a rehearsal room unless each of the three actors left their ego at the door and walked in and open
themselves up. You know, these three people didn’t know each other never met each other before. They
walked in and were introduced to each other on the first day of rehearsal.
Four weeks into rehearsal in London and one here. Five weeks later they’re inseparable and would walk into the traffic for each other. That’s important, it’s important to the atmosphere and attitude you have in rehearsal but you can’t do it if
actors aren’t prepared to do that. It was really essential. It’s the honouring of the play as well, that it’s layered down. Frank, seeing it again does it feel that it’s a changed play for you? Yes, it does actually. I’ve seen two run throughs now and I’m seeing it tonight for the first time with great excitement. I was 38 when I wrote it and I’m not 38 anymore. I’m older and I think it’ll be quite strange to
see it now closer to the age Michael is. The English
man, rather than the Irishman was. As we all get older we all have a
sense of the shadow behind us. I wonder what I’m going to find most significant about the play now. What I’m going to find the most touching about the play and what I’m going to find the most frightening about it. I’ve always wanted Michael to direct it. I just want directors who can direct, who can cast it and get a good designer and put it all on, and who will trust the text. Michael will do all that.
text addressed to Michael do that there So I’m wondering what’s
going to happen in it actually. Because even although I know what’s going to happen I’m wondering how it’s going to happen, I feel that it’s been a fair while since
I saw it. I heard it at the read-through. I heard it when we did the run in London actually. Part of me is grief-stricken
that it is now nearly 25 years since it’s been done. It’s another world but we did talk about whether we should modernise it, now. Should we do certain things that are happening now. We were both adamant we keep it where it was written. Because it’s not just that the politics have changed. Obviously the politics have changed. It’s not just because we’ve changed. It’s because I would hope there is an integrity about the men as they were written, that I feel is still in fighting form. I want to acknowledge that something was done at that time by these three man in this play that I still stand by. One of the problems about
modernising would be that the situation of the world in that part of the world
now is so vile-ly different. That sense of possibility of escape
truthfully would be very hard to even run that through now. I did wonder
about whether you feel the audience will see it with different eyes because of all the very
dreadful things that are happening now. I think they have to. I don’t want to
take away from anybody hasn’t seen it yet but I’m very glad it ends the way it
ends. I’m very glad it goes the way it goes. Because in it’s way I don’t think it spares
itself the appalling crisis of violence that has happened in
the Middle East. Without indulging it, without turning it into some kind of pornographic indulgence it still says this continues. I still
believe that what is happening in the Middle East started in
those years, in Beirut. That’s where it began. Back in1980s that’s when the horror began. I felt also the beauty of listening to the song “Someone who’ll watch over me”. Both the lovely idea of the song and the wonderful line from the Koran about the “Watchers”. But of course modern ears also know about the sort of watchers that there are in those situations now.
So one last question for me before we go out to the audience. The design is exceptional I thought right down to the fact that this deeply black carpet makes a proper blackout, in the way that
they must have had, and you don’t normally get that in a theatre. Was that something that you felt very determined about? Not that you would try to replicate a cell with it’s dripping but that attention to detail, that you would give your designer the freedom to do what he does? I don’t want to spoil it
because it’s very striking when you see it. Well, those of you who’ve seen it will know what I’m about to not talk about. The design contains a surprise. The only thing I’ll give away about it is that the basis upon which Rob and I approached it was that we never ever wanted the
audience to see the cell without the men in it. So you can piece together what I
just said. So as you’re sitting here now, you’re not seeing the cell. It was very important, even in the interval, we didn’t want three chains left on the stage and the actors going off for a cup of coffee. We wanted that cell not be available. A bit like Frank’s writing you have to strike
the right balance between accuracy and theatricality. Not unlike the first play of Frank’s I did “Sons of Ulster” he has something, and I invite those of you who have not seen the
play yet to watch carefully for this. He does two things that (amongst many others) are very particular to him. One is that he moves absolutely seamlessly from comedy to pathos and you simply don’t notice those those dividing lines.
They can be within the line. Uproarious comedy and then deep pathos. Of course what they do is they set each other off. So the comedy becomes like a safety valve for the three of them and for us. The other thing it does is that it moves seamlessly between (this is deeply inadequate word for it) a
kind of poetic diction and naturalistic diction. Again you don’t sit there in the audience thinking “He’s gone poetic now”. Thank God! You just hear them. But there are areas in the play where the language is pared back to
the absolute minimum and this was true of “Sons of Ulster” as well. It’s because you don’t notice those joins that it’s an extraordinary journey. So
just to give you an example about design, I’m sitting here in the light of the play and I’ve worked with, I think, this country’s finest lighting designer on this show. A woman called Paule Constable. Paule and I talked about
the style of the lighting. Of course if you lit the play with
documentary accuracy you lot would want your money back because you wouldn’t be able to see them. It would be monotonous and it would be depressing. So we decided
to find the right balance between atmosphere and theatricality. The theatre of what’s happened is more
important. What’s important in this play is the relationship between three men, pure
and simple. If you can’t see their faces you don’t share that relationship, you
don’t share that story. So that balance between seeing what I’m saying in relation to Frank’s writing was as true for the design. So
the “non naturalism” of what I described earlier, of not seeing the
cell without the men in it is a theatrical device. But I think it honours the atmosphere of the play, and the same for the lighting, and the same for the sound. For example at one stage I was thinking of having all kinds of extraneous sounds of men shouting in the street, or calls to prayer, or markets. I cut all that, everything. There isn’t a single sound in the play. Not one. No sound of the people who have taken tthem captive, nothing. Because it’s not relevant. What’s relevant is this melting pot of the three of them together. It made that incredibly potent sound effect that is so often underused, so potent, namely silence. Silence itself is the sound effect. People having to live with silence. But that’s a theatrical concept. Of course in reality you would hear sounds from the outside but it’s not a documentary. But it is very, very powerful when you’re in the theatre. Can we have the house lights up a bit
please we have time for a few questions? Just put your hand up. In connection with Frank’s script, how much scope was there for you as a director to apply your own ideas to what was already written? Well Frank writes with very, very few
stage directions. There are some writers who are irritatingly full of stage directions.
For example, in brackets, when an actor starts to speak “steadfastly” or “angrily” or “with irritation”. I find that deeply irritating and
quite insulting to the actors. Frank is very, very spare. When he says
something he means it. not those of you who’ve seen play those
of you have when I wouldn’t talk about One of the most astonishing stage directions I’ve ever come across in a play, in fact the most astonishing It’s an action that the two men do at the end of the play. It makes me cry every evening. It is an act of creative imagination of Frank’s which says the equivalent of four pages of dialogue. It’s absolutely brilliant, brilliant! So my observation was always about the text. I mean if you’re doing “The Winter’s Tale”, you know you’re doing a play that’s been done 100 times before. You have to walk in on day one with the actors, whether you like it or not, with
the world. This is the “world” of my production. I don’t believe that’s what your job is with a play like this. My job is to know that play backwards. Then I could quote from it on day one. But not come in with what I want to put on to it. What I want to put onto it would be a presumption and if at the end of five or six or seven weeks work I’ve realised the play. That’s
my job. I don’t believe that plays speak for themselves. I’m not saying that. I think you have to conjure the music from them. But you have to conjure the music from them rather than imposing your own music. Next question. Who was who in the original cast 25 years ago? Steven Rea played the Irish Man. I had known Stephen from when we were young but had never worked before. My beloved friend, Alec McCowen played the Englishman. I got to know him very well. He had just
done a Brian Friel play so was in his “Irish phase”. Then Hugh Quarshie played the American. He played Adam. He didn’t do it in the West End or in New York. We had to give it to an American actor
and James McDaniel took over then. They were three radically different men.
Robin Lefevre directed it. A Scottish guy. That really made things interesting. That was it, we went from there. Another question. Would you have liked to have done it without an interval? I saw it without an interval. I went to San Diego to see it without an interval. It was the first time it was ever done because it was done “in the round”. I felt that they worked extraordinarily hard to pull it off without an interval. But there was, I thought, a diminishing of the sense of captivity when what happens, happens in the play. Michael and I did talk about doing it without an interval. Now I love working with our designer Robert Jones. I’ve worked with him a lot. I always
think of Robert as a “Lady Bracknell” of design. They come upon you as a surprise. Pleasant or otherwise as the case may be. It’s always been pleasant. This time I was jumping for joy on the first day of rehearsals because of course Rob takes a play and reads it and knows it. He’s come up with a perfect solution. A solution for how an interval really can be
staged as a part of the play. I’m relieved that the interval is there because I feel there is a natural break in the play. I do genuinely know this, it’s taken me 25 years to know that but now I do know there is a natural break in the play and I don’t think I would let it go on now without an interval. Also it reminds us that we’re free to go. I thought that was quite powerful. Final question. Have any of the 3 hostages seen the play and have you had a reaction? Yes, Brian has seen it a couple of times
and John saw it. I think Terry Waite saw it as well but I’m not sure. I met Brian obviously after he saw it. I saw John after he saw it as well. No, I didn’t see John, Brian brought him and they saw it together. Brian sent me a message saying everything was OK. I tend to leave them alone, you know. When writing it I didn’t go near them. Finishing it I wanted the minimum amount of hassle for them. So I leave them alone. You should, if you have a moment, (& I think it’s being sold here actually) buy the published text. Not the
collected McGuiness. Certainly the individual text there’s
an article written by Brian Keenan about the play. I recommended it to you all. Thank you. The program is is terrific as well I think there are some really wonderful articles
in there about how it all came about. I’m really devastated we’ve got to stop.
You very generously said we could go on a tiny bit longer and we have done,
but as always in time honored tradition we must give the Playhouse back to the
players in good time. For now ladies and gentlemen Michael Attenborough and Frank “Evil” McGuinness!

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