Adrian Kimberlin explores the real-life stories – beyond the headlines - of kidnapped journalist John McCarthy and his partner Jill Morrell, who campaigned for his release in the 1990s, in his new musical.
The couple made headlines in 1986 when John, a British journalist, was kidnapped in war-torn Beirut. Frustrated by government inaction, Jill resolved to raise awareness and formed the campaign group ‘The Friends Of John McCarthy’. For more than five desperate years, McCarthy remained a hostage.
‘After This Plane has Landed’ places sharp focus on the very human elements of their situation. It goes on to explore events beyond a joyful reunion under an intense media spotlight and with the fairy-tale expectations of an enthralled public.
The brand new, original musical drama comedy – dramedy – will premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in August, with preview performances in a pop-up pub theatre in Moseley, Birmingham, in June.
Adrian Kimberlin said: “I was really drawn to the inspirational stories of Jill Morrell and John McCarthy, which I remembered quite vividly. I think people of a particular generation will also recall events of the time though not necessarily be aware of ‘what happened next’.
“Much of the subject matter is specific and remarkable but universal themes of love and separation, reunion and beyond will chime, I believe, with a younger audience and indeed resonate with everybody, not just aficionados of musicals!”
He added: “Following the success of my previous show, ‘The Stars That Remain’ which requires a cast of eleven, I was keen to write a more compact two-hander musical ‘dramedy’ based on real events.
“Musical theatre is such a broad church these days, I see no reason why new and entertaining adult-themed drama with well-crafted musical numbers shouldn’t sit comfortably alongside ‘jukebox’ musicals or spin-off shows based on movies or TV.”
Exit Productions has teamed-up with local promoter and former BBC communications and events manager, Rebecca Jones-Owen, to stage the previews in The Dark Horse after her sold-out ‘pub theatre’ success in Moseley last summer with Saltire Sky Theatre Company’s award-winning play ‘1902’.
Becky said: “I'd often thought that some of the fantastic pubs in Moseley, Kings Heath and Stirchley could nurture a similar pub theatre scene to that in London.
“I then read about a pub in Glasgow that do something called ‘a play, a pie and a pint’. They put on a new lunchtime theatre production every week throughout the year. This gave me the kick I needed to try and get something off the ground here.
Last summer we got the amazing Saltire Sky Theatre Company to put on their award winning play ‘1902’ at The Prince of Wales and Dark Horse pubs, in Moseley.
“The response was amazing and we sold out. I've been looking for another play to follow up on this and was very excited when Adrian Kimberlin agreed to preview his next Edinburgh show at The Dark Horse. I know many people would love to experience the Fringe in Edinburgh so I'm hoping that we can bring a little slice of the festival vibe to Birmingham.
“I think it's worth adding that if you are not a regular theatre goer this kind of theatre might appeal as we are sticking to Edinburgh Festival Fringe protocol and all productions will be an hour or less.... and you can drink!”
Journalist John McCarthy was kidnapped and held captive more than 30 years ago, but according to ‘Reporters Without Borders’, which highlights abuses against journalists around the world, 546 journalists and 21 media workers are currently imprisoned, including 104 in China, 80 in Myanmar and 79 in Syria.*
* Barometer | RSF shows abuses across the world in real-time, figures dated 27 February 2023.
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