Jay Clift, Ashley O'Connell and Kirk Smith in the Dancing Monkey Presents production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.
Jay Clift, Ashley O'Connell and Kirk Smith in the Dancing Monkey Presents production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.

Despite a log line that sounds an awful lot like the beginning of a culturally insensitive joke, Vancouver’s Dancing Monkey Presents presents Frank McGuinness’s story of survival and national identity, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.

Inspired by the real-life imprisonment of Irish journalist Brian Keenan, held hostage in Beirut from 1986 to 1990, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me tells the story of a trio of foreign nationals chained to a wall with no way to communicate with the outside world, no idea why they’re there, or if they’ll ever be released.  As the three men fight to retain their sanity at the hands of their unseen captors, they are forced to overcome their personal and nationalistic differences.

“Yes, it’s definitely a condemnation of how awful we can be, to one another, as human beings,” says director Julie McIsaac, “but more importantly – it’s a tremendous celebration of how completely beautiful we can be, how incredibly strong and generous of spirit.”

Giving the play an added realism, Dublin-born actor Ashley O’Connell not only plays the Irishman Edward, the character inspired by Keenan, but also brings an added insider’s knowledge having studied with the playwright at University College Dublin.

“Speaking in my original dialect is uniquely liberating,” says O’Connell who will play an Irishman for the first time since his arrival in Canada.  “As I speak differently, I start to think differently. Being Irish means being part of a rich cultural heritage and an ancient history, but it also means being part of a troubled recent history and different ways of thinking and coping. Playing Edward is reacquainting me with many aspects of being Irish, and it means an enormous amount to me.”

O’Connell, who earned a Jessie nomination for his work in the 2011 production of The Pillowman, will be joined on stage by Kirk Smith and up-and-comer Jay Clift who recently wowed Vancouver audiences in Hardline Productions’ Bug.

Taking the production outside the conventional theatre setting and into a back room at the Renegade Studios is designed to give the audience a sense that they are actually in the room with the three men.

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me plays the Renegade Studios March 12-23, 2014.  Visit http://www.dancingmonkeypresents.com for tickets and information.