Words: Robert Parker-White
After This Plane Has Landed is a musical dramedy based on the true events surrounding John McCarthy being taken hostage in Lebanon in 1986 and Jill Morrell tireless campaign to free him whilst setting up the “Friends of John McCarthy.”
Alan Magor’s direction is skilful and concise. He continually surprises us and keeps the play rollicking along at an exuberant speed. Initially, the musical is self-referential and comments about different theatrical devices being used, before we are totally immersed into the two characters’ world. The book by Adrian Kimberlin is strong but it is in the musical numbers where his genius is most apparent.
Benedict Powell is completely captivating and thoroughly convincing as John McCarthy. He is endlessly watchable, eyeballing the audience and lamenting his struggles as a captive. His later bouts of repressed anger and difficulty readjusting into society are sensitively handled. Claire Russell is affecting and tender as the long suffering Jill Morrell, working tirelessly in campaigning for John’s release. She sings a touching ballad “The Woman Who Waits” about her struggles of being public property for the press.
The titular song ‘After This Plane Has Landed’ is haunting with beautiful harmonies from Powell and Russell. It captures the fleeting moment of time of the unknown. It is painful as the pair have changed because of their shared experience but are now fundamentally different people. It perfectly encapsulates the unknown destination their relationship will take after over five years of absence. I would have liked to have seen the disintegration of their relationship fleshed out ever further but understand this may have been a limitation of time.
After This Plane Has Landed is a turbulent ride through one couple’s extraordinary relationship and a fascinating deconstruction of its collapse.
After This Plane Has Landed
theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, Theatre 1