Theatre Review – What We Know

February 20, 2010 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆

Traverse Theatre
By Thom Dibdin

Warm, honest and beguiling, Pamela Carter’s new play for the Traverse Too strand of experimental productions is also a sharply brutal affair that is capable of leaving its audience utterly dumbfounded.

It all passes through the eating of a meal. Simple, lovingly-created food which, in its consumption with all the formal rituals of dinner-party etiquette, both creates a bonding and exposes the differences between those gathered to eat it.

Kate Dickie in What We Know – photo by Richard Campbell

This is, from the outset, astoundingly mundane. Yet in her recreation of a slice of Friday night-in, Carter’s twists and turns succeed in saying something profound about loss and self – and the way in which those who build their lives together are capable of fusing their identities to the point where neither is visible any more. Something which you could never quite put into words or say out loud.

At the centre of everything are Kate Dickie as Lucy and Paul Thomas Hickey as Jo. There’s a real warmth about their not-quite perfect evening, pregnant with possibilities but tense with the fear that either could jeopardise it all with a revelation or request that the other will never quite agree to.

Around them, the guests dance with a beguiling intensity. Pauline Lockhart is the needy, overdressed Helen, not quite believing that she has been invited to this feast at all. Robin Laing’s Cal, an echo from a long-forgotten past, creates all the lumpen foot-in-mouth moments of someone well out of their comfort zone.

It is Anne Lacey as the neighbour, Charlie, who pulls the most fascinating performance onto the stage. Lacey’s timing as a bluff, no-nonsense spinster is split-second perfect. Mind you, in the detail of her lines she has material that would make the most gifted of comedy writers shout with joy.

Through the middle of this a teenager, played by newcomer Lorn McDonald who has previously seen in  Lyceum Youth Theatre productions, barges with all the ungainly inelegance of his age. McDonald’s portrayal of the destructive and thoughtless lad is done with a rarely seen honesty.

If this is not quite perfect – the ending is just a shade too pat – the chance to see a cast of this calibre in a production of this depth in a space so intimate, is one which should not be passed up.

A co-production with Ek performance which confirms, after the success of Midsummer, the wisdom of such “experimental” work. In fact, it doesn’t feel experimental at all, just a solidly satisfying piece of theatre.

Run continues to Saturday 27 February

ENDS

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