It doesn't seem like a particularly fun evening, watching the experiences of three hostages in Lebanon. But everybody involved in this production of Frank McGuinness's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me is at pains to point out that though the topic may seem dark, there are some elements of extraordinary humour.
"It may appear bleak," says actor Billy Carter, "but actually it's one of the funniest pieces I've worked on. It's about the human spirit, laughter, a vital ingredient for survival."
"The play is about survival," says Robin Soans, "and not just physically: emotionally and mentally as well. And that's why it's so full of humour. It's integral."
"It's beautiful," says director Jessica Swale. "It speaks volumes about humanity, and it's relevant now because in times of austerity, people think about what's impoortant in life."
Swale and her creative team saw a huge number of actors for these three roles, and had to consider the balance of dynamics - in a three-hander, the chemistry and camaraderie are vital. It seems that they did strike the right mix judging from the cast's evidently tight relationship.
"They're lovely gentlemen to work with," enthuses Joseph Timms, the youngest of the trio. "The plays about relationships, so it was vital that we become friends as well - and we do get on, and we're all very supportive of each other."
"That's one of Jess's strengths as a director," agrees Soans. "She gets her actors to work very selflessly together. We're entirely reliant on each other, so we need to have a feeling of company, and take pleasure in each other's performances."
Soans already had a great deal of knowledge about the Lebanon hostages from his own play, Talking To Terrorists, and Carter had previously read Brian Keenan's autobiography, but Timms, who's 25, had to do a lot of research - and not just on the hostage crisis.
"Because it's set in the 80s, there were references I had no idea about," he admits. "I did read a bit to understand the mindset, but also because I'm playing an American I've been trying to absorb American culture of the time as well, and make it as rich as possible."
Carter will be seen on UK television in the autumn when he plays Thomas Andrews in the forthcoming Titanic mini-series, starring alongside the likes of Derek Jacobi, Neve Campbell, Joely Richardson and Chris Noth - but he's at pains to point out that it's not another dramatisation of the disaster. "It's a political and social drama set against the construction of the Titanic," he explains.
In the meantime, the three can be seen in Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the Southwark Playhouse until May.
Picture by Thomas Gilding