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Knock written by Megan Jenkins at the Drayton Arms Theatre

KnockKnock shouldn’t be knocked, as it were, for starting with a knock. There’s an explosive start, with Dinah (Amy Kitts) and Ben (Will de Coverly) yelling at one another in the way that partners in a strained relationship tend to do. But it soon becomes clear that this is a scripted scene – or, at the risk of pedantry, a scripted scene within a scripted scene. Ben is actually married to Jude (Natasha Culzac), the director of the show being rehearsed.

What the audience witnesses is a rehearsal. Such are the number of interruptions during this rehearsal, some of which are self-induced (or are they?), that progress as far as the rehearsal is concerned is sluggish at best. The black box set goes well with the rehearsal setting – it’s more about continuing to get a feel for the script and the plotline and how it should be brought to life than props and projections. Subplots involving the three characters are interrupted by the incomings and outgoings of one another and are thus insufficiently developed.

Mind you, there is much to be discovered about how the rehearsal process can affect a fully-fledged production. As a scene is paused yet again by Jude as one or the other or both of her actors isn’t doing precisely what she wants them to, I wondered how the development of the play itself came about. The characters are certainly very believable: one could imagine a frazzled director, who appears to be working on the play within the play without an assistant, and actors doing their best in trying circumstances.

Some of Jude’s instructions were rather vague, occasionally with hilarious consequences. As she raised her voice and snapped once more, she became increasingly dislikeable, however ambitious and apt her vision for her rather dark play was. Then again, I have never been an actor, and most actors are vibrantly gregarious, so perhaps her style of direction is a display of confidence and assertiveness. Even so, there are ways of speaking to people.

The rehearsal setting by its very nature invites repetition, making the production feel longer than it is. Now, it would be rather cruel, beyond the usual necessity not to throw in too many spoilers, to provide details of what transpires that makes the rehearsal so chaotic. But I will say this much: it’s not always easy to tell whether an event has actually occurred or whether it is in the characters’ imaginations, and the line between reality and presupposition becomes increasingly blurry.

Billed as a ‘horror comedy’, the audience reaction at the performance I attended firmly puts the production in the latter category far more than the former. I can’t, however, fault the sound effects. However, the production ends rather abruptly, and while the variation in pace overall will have been appreciated by some, as there is no definitive outcome, the show feels incomplete. Part of me likes the idea of the audience being left to ascertain for themselves what transpired next, but a larger part of me would like to have known how things ‘actually’ panned out.

Quite a few themes are briefly explored in the play, including mental health and the various impacts on the lives of actors with unpredictable incomes. These could be further developed into a two-act play (this production runs comfortably without an interval). As it stands, this is a ‘funny’ show – and in answer to the retort question, “Funny ‘ha-ha’ or funny ‘peculiar’?”, it is both.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Three people are rehearsing a new play, a horror. It tells the true story of Edie, a young woman in 1970s Essex, who, whilst heavily pregnant, becomes convinced that there is something malevolent in the walls of her new home and commits a horrific crime. As odd events quickly begin to plague the rehearsal, relationships fray, realities blur and stories start to mirror.
Something wants in. What happens when you open the door?
Cast: Natasha Culzac, Amy Kitts and William de Coverly
Directed by Katie Turner and Alexandria Anfield

Original Impact Theatre
@Originalimpact
www.originalimpacttheatre.com

Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW5 0LJ
September 4th – 8th at 7.30pm

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