Taut thriller with a human heart
Be Silent or Be Killed
Right Lines Productions
PUDDINGS are bad for you — and nobody knows better about that than Macduff businessman Roger Hunt.
Because he skipped dessert at his Mumbai hotel in November 2008, he was able to get away from the terrorists who burst into the dining room and find precarious sanctuary in his hotel room.
That such a random decision can have such life-changing — or in this case, life-saving consequences — is one of the topics touched upon in Euan Martin and Dave Smith’s adaptation of Hunt’s book "Be Silent or Be Killed".
"Why me?" demands Hunt (James Mackenzie), along and terrified in his room as shots and bombs echo from elsewhere in the building.
"Why not you?" responds his late brother Chris (Ewan Donald).
Chris may only be imaginary presence — though solid enough to arm wrestle his brother in a slightly odd sequence — but other than the BlackBerry which connects Hunt with his bank’s head office in Scotland, he is the only human presence Hunt has to console him in 40 terror filled hours hidden in his hotel.
He is a conscience, a confessor and advisor, as well as a source of lighter moments to ease the tension, though there is a hint that Hunt blames himself for one of those careless decisions that set Chris on a career at sea and an early death in a fishing accident.
Meanwhile, back home Hunt’s wife Irene (a very good Helen Mackay) tries to maintain normal life for the sake of her children in the face of the ever present fear that the next call will tell her of Roger’s death and unwelcome attention from the press.
Dave Martin may not be on stage, but he makes his contribution felt with his sound design. Explosions and gunshots can seemingly come from anywhere in the OneTouch Theatre, adding to the unease. Though we obviously know that Hunt survived his ordeal, that does not prevent the tension from being racked up, especially as the siege moves to its climax and Hunt waits for whoever bursts through the door — terrorists or rescuers.
John McGeoch’s video and set design also play their part. The widow of Hunt’s 14th floor hotel room with its authentic view of Mumbai becomes the BlackBerry sending messages between Edinburgh and India, or changes to film clips and photographs, including a jarring moment when real television footage of the attacks gives way to a first-person shooter video game played by Hunt’s son.
James Mackenzie was a later addition to the show, replacing the injured Fraser Sivewright, though it might be difficult to guess.
He even has a pretty good stab at the Macduff accent in a role that, with its flashbacks to Hunt’s eminently relatable home life sees him run through the emotions from shyly courting Irene to contemplating suicide.
Praying is not an option for Hunt — as a despairing Irene makes plans for Roger’s funeral we notice she is opting for a Humanist service — so instead he turns to football to keep him going, reciting the names of Aberdeen’s European Cup winning team as a kind of personal mantra.
"What is it Fergie says?" Chris asks.
"It’s never over ’til it’s over."
"Be Silent or Be Killed" itself is a taut thriller, but one that has more interesting things to say about the psychology of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary events than a 1000 Hollywood blockbusters could ever manage.