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


OK.

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.

No one will ever forgive us, by The National Theatre of Scotland at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh


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Well.

Here’s a one.

I have to declare two interests from the outset.

I am a Catholic.

My cousin (Susan Vidler) is in this play.

So I’m biased.

Paul Higgins, may be the most remarkable new stage-writing talent since Gregory Burke.  It really is written brilliantly, flowing along at 100 miles an hour packed with hilarious one liners, and I believe it’s autobiographical. (Actually it’s very unfair of me to heap this comparative praise on Paul Higgins given my lack of comparative insight; but if he isn’t the best then Scottish Theatre is absolutely booming.)

I urge you to see this play before it is too late. (It was pretty much sold out on a dreich Tuesday in late November.)

It’s a fantastic smorgasbord of Scottishness. As the nation of doom we like to dwell on the dark side and this does it magnificently. I honestly have never encountered a script, in film or on stage, that leaps like Bambi on steroids, between bleak nihilism and outrageous humour, line by line, quite as well as this.

It is remarkable.

The main theme centres on belief 9or lack of it). I suppose the key character in the five person cast is the youngest son who has opted out of the seminary (or is that safe haven?) that he has studied at for seven years because he has become atheistic. Is there a God? Is there a Catholic God (OMG)? Is there a point? Why should I coexist with you? Have I a future?

But, at the gleaming, glowing, pulsating, dangerous centre of it all is the horrific patriarch, Gary Lewis. What a performance. The drunk, child-beating, wife-hating (but actually not particularly misogynistic) husband engulfs the stage with his presence.

It is massive.

The audience howled with tears and laughter and, for me, it was another triumphant National Theatre of Scotland performance. I’ve seen three this year in three different theatres.

They all demonstrated our brilliance.