A tale of bomb plots, racial profiling and miscarriages of justice, Your Ever Loving may have the makings of an episode of Homeland, however it has the added bonus of being true.
The play follows the story of Paul Hill, a member the Guildford Four, a group of young Irish people who were falsely imprisoned following the 1974 Guildford pub bombings.
Their arrest, trial and torture at the hands of the police remains one of the lowest moments in British legal history, but while one of the members turned this story into a major motion picture, Your Ever Loving looks at the case from Hill’s perspective.
It was conceived by Martin McNamara who stumbled upon a collection of Hill’s letters to his mother from prison, and sifted through the reams of correspondence to paint a picture of a man trying keep his head up in the face of incredible adversity.
Both the staging and cast of the performance are spartan in the extreme, performed in front of a brickwork facade daubed with Troubles-era graffiti and newspaper clippings of the case, the two actors use a bare minimum of props to illustrate Hill’s ordeal.
Paul Hill, played by Stefan McCusker, is best defined as a man trying to make the best of an extremely bad situation, while James Elmes, playing the aptly named Rest Of The World, is the personification of that situation.
The most striking aspect of the performances of McCusker and Elmes is the contrast, McCusker plays Hill with a quiet realism, painting an intimate picture of a young man in a difficult situation.
Conversely, Elmes’ World is a raucous parade of leering caricatures that would be quite at home in a Monty Python fever dream, from insipid politicians to hard faced prison guards.
The two hugely different styles come together to create an experience that is both very moving yet rather surreal, especially when Elmes gets hold of some lipstick and begins to resemble a nightmarish mime.
Given the seriousness of the subject matter one wouldn’t expect a huge number of laughs and while Your Ever Loving is certainly not a comedy, the interplay between McCusker and Elmes can be quite hilarious.
The play uses it’s minimal props to great effect, with Elmes dragging McCusker’s mattress from one side of the stage to the other to signify yet another prison transfer.
Time is also cleverly used in the performance, with the passing of Hill’s sentence being punctuated by popular songs of the era.
McCusker does a sterling job of showing how, as Hill’s imprisonment continues and the world outside moves past him, he does not allow himself to sink into melancholy.
When this is interspersed with Elmes relaying the developments or lack thereof in the case in the style of a radio presenter, the scale of the injustice done to Hill seems all the greater.
Your Ever Loving transports its audience to a time where the violent actions of a few extremists created such hysteria in Britain that serious miscarriages of justice were able to be carried out unchallenged.
Given the current climate of fear surrounding certain extremists in todays world, the play stands as a striking warning against making the same mistakes.
Your Ever Loving will run until May 5th excluding Fridays and Saturdays at Theatre N16 at the Bedford Pub, Balham.
All pictures courtesy of Andreas Lambis