Not even a year after its opening, Theatre N16 in Balham is becoming the place to be. Over the last couple of months this new fringe venue has been a home to many companies who have showcased diverse material from classic to modern and political plays. This spring N16’s Artistic Director, Jamie Eastlake directs a play about one of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill.
YOUR EVER LOVING written by Martin McNamara tells the harrowing story of a then 21 year old Hill who, tortured by Metropolitan Police officers, signed a confession in which he admitted to the IRA bombing of a Guildford Pub. Many people believe that Paul Hill has spent 15 years in prison for a crime he never committed.
Can you tell me what was behind your decision to direct a play about Paul Hill?
When Martin McNamara sent me the play I had absolutely no idea who Paul Hill or any of the Guilford Four were. As I read the play I kept asking myself: Why do I not know who this guy is? This is when I realised that young people have no idea about this case. People are shaken by Netflix’s series MAKING A MURDERER, but the truth is they don’t even know what happened in their own country. It’s really terrifying to think that these stories of terrible injustice are not being told. And it feels like Paul’s story needs to be told and it needs to be told now.
Do you say that because you can see parallels between that world of 70’s London and the world we live in?
Absolutely. The way some people look at the Muslim community is similar to the way the Irish were looked at back then. Just look at Donald Trump and the amount of people that support him. In a way it shows how history repeats itself and this is why I see Paul’s story as relevant to modern audiences.
What are Paul’s feelings towards YOUR EVER LOVING?
Martin speaks to him all the time via Skype. He told him about me directing the play. Paul said he was delighted as he never met a nasty Geordie (laughs). He thinks it’s important that people will know his story, but at the same time he would never want to see the play; it would result in him reliving that horror. I mean, you can’t put something so horrendous behind you; it’s always there with you. Look what happened to Gerry Conlon. (Gerry Conlon, also of Guildford Four, suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse. He died in 2014 at 60 years of age. His father Giuseppe Conlon of the Maguire Seven died in prison.)
Talking about Gerry Conlon. Do you think people who saw Jim Sheridan’s IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, will see similarities between the film and your production?
Ultimately IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER was Gerry’s story. However Paul Hill made a point of the fact that Hollywood bended a lot of the facts for the sake of the film. What is really striking is that in reality everything that happened in court was always emotionless. When the Guildford Four were released no emotions were shown from any of the legal figures. I mean if you think about it, it wasn’t until 2005 that Tony Blair actually apologised for what happened. The things is YOUR EVER LOVING is based entirely on Paul’s letters to his family, these are his words. It’s raw and it’s truthful and it is matter of fact.
How did Martin McNamara come across Paul’s letters?
It was by complete chance! He was in The London Metropolitan Archive of the Irish in Britain, working on something that had absolutely nothing to do with Guildford Four and someone said to him “Paul Hill’s letters are over there”. So he started reading through them thinking “This is something important”. Later on he approached the BBC; they liked the idea so they produced a documentary on it for Radio 4. But Martin wanted it to keep going further hence the play YOUR EVER LOVING. He wants this story to be heard by many and is still thinking of other mediums he could be using in order to tell it.
Looking at your programming one can see a lot of political pieces. Do you think Theatre N16 is becoming a venue for political theatre?
I think any good theatre is political theatre. I have never seen myself as a theatre director really, I think I am a story teller, I tell stories and very often the stories that I tell or stories that resonate with me are those that deal with injustice. The 70’s and 80’s Britain is full of these stories. I don’t think that we, the British have dealt with our past. No one ever went down for what happened at Hillsborough, the three Metropolitan Police Officers who tortured the Guildford Four to make them sign their confessions were put on trial and found not guilty. Then there is the case of the celebrity sexual predator Jimmy Saville, where everyone knew what was going on but no one did anything about it. So to answer the question: I don’t look at myself and say I make political theatre; it just so happens that theatre is a perfect medium for stories, stories that can stir people’s minds, provoke thoughts and start a discussion.
YOUR EVER LOVING opens at Theatre N16 on the 18th April and runs until the 5th May.