Review of Knock Knock at The Etcetera Theatre

Knock Knock at The Etcetera TheatreIn this place every child is destined to be a soldier,” so reads the front cover of the programme for Knock Knock. As I took my seat I couldn’t help thinking that I must steel myself for some harrowing depictions of the brutality of war. In the end, the copious amounts of fake blood that I envisaged remained a figment of my imagination, and my ear drums stayed unperforated as the loud noises of artillery and explosives didn’t materialise.

What the show does depict tugs at the emotional heartstrings more than bangs and blood would have done. A story is told, spanning around two decades. If life is difficult for a working mother – and it is – imagine being one who works in the Israeli military, albeit in a non-combative role. The Israeli army of today likes to be a little more personal than a mere telegram and/or letter, sending personnel specially trained in loss and bereavement to knock on the front doors of family homes (hence the show’s title) and as sensitively and tactfully as is feasible, inform relatives accordingly.

In focusing on the consequences of military operations, rather than the operations themselves, this play is also refreshingly devoid of inter-country politics in the Middle East. As it considers the lives of those directly affected by decisions made by governments, there is something universal about this production.

It is, I would have thought, relatable to military families of almost any nation. At face value, parts of the play come across as rather pointless. There’s a scene about new chickens that have been hatched, and another on a beach on the Mediterranean coast (I presume so, anyway: the play does not technically speaking, make clear precisely where the beach is). But such scenes ultimately serve to provide examples of how life carries on despite ongoing conflict, and on balance, present a very human side of living in a war zone that the newspaper reports and television documentaries often overlook.

Even if there is a smattering of schoolboy immaturity in Niv Petel’s creation of frontline battle through a combination of physical movement and sound effects created solely through his own voice, it’s remarkably credible. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the opening scene, or what was going on, and as the closing scene mirrored it, I am just as nonplussed about the ending. That said, the scene changes are as slick and as smooth as they could be, regardless of a show’s budget, and the level of engagement established early on in this intriguing piece of theatre is therefore never interrupted by clunky gaps or silences as the play moves on.

You will be aware by this point that we have a male actor portraying a working mother. But it works, and it works beautifully, without straying into melodrama or becoming one of those patronising portrayals of women as unstable wrecks, unable to see the wood for the trees. What happened to the father of this lady’s son is not mentioned. But does it need to be? What isn’t said in this play is just as profound as what is. This is a poignant and powerful play, and, as I say, far from your typical war zone drama.

4 stars
Review by Chris Omaweng

Using his body and voice, Niv Petel weaves a vivid and detailed familial relationship in KNOCK KNOCK, a physical solo show exploring the effects of National Service on a single mother and her only son in Israel.

In a country where tensions between political groups run high, borders are constantly inflammable and National Service is compulsory, the risk of death is an everyday occurrence. KNOCK KNOCK is inspired by real events and cuts through the politics of the Middle East to tell a story about parenthood, friendship, love and sacrifice.

Children are destined to be soldiers from the day they are born; their parents, who were all soldiers once themselves know that one day a KNOCK KNOCK on the front door might change their lives forever.

Nev Petel recently took time out to talk about the production.

Using his body and voice, Niv Petel weaves a vivid and detailed familial relationship in KNOCK KNOCK, a physical solo show exploring the effects of National Service on a single mother and her only son in Israel.

In a country where tensions between political groups run high, borders are constantly inflamable and National Service is compulsory, the risk of death is an everyday occurrence. KNOCK KNOCK is inspired by real events and cuts through the politics of the Middle East to tell a story about parenthood, friendship, love and sacrifice.

Knock Knock
Produced by Alan Boulter Productions Ltd
Set and Costume design by Rhiannon White
Lighting design by Oliver Bush
26 October 2016 – 29 October 2016 at 7:30pm
http://www.etceteratheatre.com/

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