After This Plane Has Landed

Adrian Kimberlain
Exit Productions
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

After This Plane Has Landed

It’s broadly true that you can write a play about almost anything, and if you can write a play, then you could just as rightly make it a musical. The question becomes whether you should.

After This Plane Has Landed puts that question quite strongly to the test, as it tells the inextricably interlinked real-life stories of journalists John McCarthy and Jill Morrell, putting to song the harrowing tale of McCarthy’s kidnapping in Beirut and subsequent half-decade of imprisonment, while simultaneously portraying the humanitarian campaigning his then partner, Morrell, did on behalf of securing his freedom. But instead of just covering that, it also follows the difficult times after his release, and re-integration both into his relationship and his life.

Now, if you expect that to be a dark, pensive and thoughtful piece, looking for the brinks of humanity in a terrible situation fraught with fear and sadness, you’d be quite mistaken. The oddest choice, and in some ways the biggest misstep in this play, is that the subject matter is treated with almost blithe contempt. From the off, there is a jokey and surprisingly relaxed tone that is never quite balanced out by the real horror of what’s happening. There’s even a song in the latter half of the play as the reunited pair sing about their experiences, and it’s continuously and repeatedly laughed off that he’s spent five years splatting mosquitoes.

All in all, it’s quite a strange musical, although not without merit. Claire Russell and Benedict Powell are both accomplished singers and performers and the story is interesting and funny at times. Unfortunately, on the day this critic attended, some tech issues hampered the performance, as the radio mics cut out repeatedly throughout the performance. Obviously, this was likely a singular mishap, but it only serves to make the dissonance of the experience all the more apparent.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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