“Three people waiting in a room – we don’t know where, why, who, or what for.” CHLOE COLEMAN and LEYLA HAMID try a strong dose of the surreal. And they’re not sure how much they like it.
Pembroke New Cellars, Tue 27th – Thu 29th Nov, 7pm, £5
We are a little bit scarred. According to the Camdram entry, Knots is experimental, explorative surrealist drama. This is all irrefutable. But it doesn’t really prepare you for what is to come.
It started innocently enough… Pembroke New Cellars had been transformed into your standard school classroom, and we sat amongst people we thought were fellow audience members. But we were mistaken. When the play commenced it became clear that we were sitting in the midst of the action: highly bemused participants in a classroom full of apathetic teenagers, discussing what freedom means to us. Had there been a larger audience, this idea would have fully taken off, but we felt uncomfortable – this wasn’t helped by the school-teacher-as-preacher act, which felt a bit contrived. This was clearly an exploration of liberty in its simplest form, but once we obediently followed the teacher out of the “classroom” in single file, ready for the next play, we didn’t really feel enlightened.
Play number two. It was just indescribable (but we’ll give it a go…). Three people waiting in a room – we don’t know where, why, who, or what for. And, the thing is, we never find out. The interpretations we came up with ranged from dental surgery to a metaphorical purgatory – while this may be a daring exploration of ambiguity in experimental drama, we weren’t enamoured. To this, add Christabel Clark’s terrifyingly convincing portrayal of the deranged Phil, whose had an unusual habit of sucking his own blood through a straw. It’s not often a play makes you feel physically sick (had we not been reviewing, leaving to vom would have been an inviting option…) It is, of course, testimony to the outstanding acting that it left us feeling so unsettled.
We were hoping the final play would lift our spirits… but alas, there is no such relief in the relentlessness of surrealist drama. Definitely the most absurd in its displacement from reality, we are here faced with an OCD robot with a love of paperclips and writing on a blackboard with a nail file (which is as hideous as it sounds). Set far in the future and exploring the tensions between man and machine, this play dabbled with psychoanalysis, but not to an extent where we feel able to decode our inner selves. Instead, we were just left a bit confused.
We realise that this may come across as a bit of a slating, but this really isn’t the case. You can’t fault the acting, and the pieces played with audience involvement and some interesting theatrical devices.
We came out of Knots feeling psychologically stabbed and in need of a stiff drink. We wouldn’t quite term this an ‘enjoyable’ evening. But, even if it wasn’t our cup of tea, it makes for an intriguing delve into the human psyche.