Your Ever Loving – Theatre N16
Guest Review by Liz Dyer
With the popularity of TV shows like Making a Murderer, injustice seems to have become the stuff of entertainment, allowing us to feel righteous anger that such terrible things can happen, whilst safe in the knowledge that it’s all happening far away, and often forgetting there are real human lives at the heart of the story we’re so hooked on.
Martin McNamara’s Your Ever Loving forces us to confront an unpleasant truth – that these miscarriages of justice don’t only happen in America, or far-flung countries where human rights are little more than an afterthought. The story of Paul Hill and the Guildford Four is one many of us have grown up with, and this legend status means we tend to focus on the big picture, rather than the personal torment of innocent people locked up for 16 years for a crime they didn’t commit.
Your Ever Loving, directed by Jamie Eastlake and Sarah Chapleo, is based on letters written by Paul Hill to his family, particularly his mother, during the years of his imprisonment. Through them we get a glimpse of the flawed legal process that led to and consistently upheld his conviction, his day-to-day life in prison – including countless moves up and down the country – and his determination that his family should never lose hope. These excerpts are presented by Stefan McCusker, with the anger and desperation of an innocent victim but also a humour and charm that remind us he’s a young man like any other, who loves his family and is passionate about football and music.
James Elmes plays Hill’s nemesis, The Rest of the World, encompassing lawyers, police, prison guards, politicians, the media, the public and other prisoners. Dressed all in black, with smeared make-up reminiscent of Batman’s Joker, his performance veers back and forth between sinister and comic, a nod to the fact that Hill’s situation would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Both men directly address the audience, with an unflinching, confrontational gaze that makes us squirm but from which it’s difficult to look away.
Though the play is set inside Hill’s minimally furnished cell, as the years pass, we hear about events beyond the prison walls through news stories like Hillsborough and John Lennon’s death, and learn of the political machinations leading to the Four’s eventual release. This climactic news is reported like any other story, flat and emotionless, before circling without warning right back to the beginning to make the point that though justice may finally have been done, it doesn’t repair the irreparable damage caused along the way.
Your Ever Loving is an intense and compelling story of one man’s struggle against injustice and the efforts of a flawed establishment to cover up its mistakes. McNamara aims to shock as well as educate, and once all the factual details of the case have been laid out, it’s the final brutal scenes that stay with us – along with the chilling message that until the necessary lessons have been learnt, there’s a good chance we’ll see many more Paul Hills on our TV screens.