Knives in Hens at The Traverse (National Theatre of Scotland)


This is a hard one to review for a number of reasons.
First, it stars my cousin (Susan Vidler) so I have to declare an interest.

Second.  It stars the son of my most inspiring school teacher (Owen Whitelaw) Son of Walter Whitelaw, the man that made me gain a biology degree. So I have to declare an interest.

Third.  I didn’t really understand a fucking jot of it.

Now. to the business end and taking account all of the above.

It’s absorbing.  It’s intriguing. It’s empathetic.  It’s in some ways remarkable. Because it feels like an important piece of theatre that (actually) maybe I did “get”.

But it’s obtuse.  It’s difficult.  It’s ANNOYING.

The performances rock.  Every single one of them and let me not leave out Vicki Manderson or Duncan Anderson because this is actually a four header ensemble piece.

So, what is it about?

My take, and it’s only mine is that it’s a kind of human condition observation (Susan told me that directed in a different way it would obviously be about the Industrial revolution and I can see why because it’s a tale of old meets new (Plough v Mill).

It’s highly sexual and very existential.  God features heavily and Manderson’s Character in particular pulls that together as she plays a part human, part mare, part.

What is she?  Mare or madam?

I say mare.

It’s this year’s theatrical cryptic crossword and I say go and figure it out for yourself because I failed on 1 across.

3 thoughts on “Knives in Hens at The Traverse (National Theatre of Scotland)

  1. Mark, I have a terrible habit of disagreeing with you about a lot of cinema and theatre, but I’m with on you on this. Some of the best writing theatre can produce, outstandingly rich performances, but it’s all brought together by a crazy Belgian director who thinks that showing off your pants to booming a Lulu soundtrack could ever be a “metaphor” for something.

    So, am I saying that it should have just been played “straight”? Am I a fuddy-duddy who hates the avant gard or innovation? I hope not, but there has to be a point to it.

    The sainted Joyce thinks that it was about feminine sexuality, and if that’s all they were trying to with all this then I wish that they could have done it with less of a sledgehammer.


  2. That’s the great thing about theatre and the arts in general performances are open to interpretation.

    Here’s my take, the ploughman created the wealth, was at one with nature and over the year produced the grain. He also happened to have a mistress whom he kept visiting in the barn.

    His dutiful but ignorant wife was quite happy with her lot until he asked her to visit the hated miller to get the flour produced from their grain.

    This unscrupulous alcoholic bastard, cut their share of the grain before seducing and raping the poor women.

    Sounds like a parody of relationships between the working and middle classes to me.

    Which the cast managed to convey brilliantly.


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