I absolutely adore going to watch shows at the Donmar Warehouse as their productions always feel very intimate and it can’t get any more intimate than Yaël Farber’s Donmar directing debut in David Harrower’s Knives in Hens. The play features three brilliant actors but even they couldn’t save this very bizarre and boring play.
The play is set in some place and in some time period which you never really find out. There’s a ploughman and his wife, whose name you never find out – she’s literally listed as Young Woman. There’s also a miller, who everyone hates because he’s supposedly killed off his wife and kids and suddenly somewhat of a love triangle forms. All of this, is never really explained, it just happens. It’s a short play, 90 minutes straight through, which is good because there isn’t much that this play could expand on. It tries to be risqué – the play opens with a sex scene and there are a small handful of scenes where the actors are in just their underwear but they didn’t move the story along at all. Judith Roddy, Christian Cooke and Matt Ryan really do try their best with that they have been given but ultimately, I just did not get it.
I do have to mention Soutra Gilmor’s amazing set design. The smell of burning smoke is unbelievably strong as soon as you enter the auditorium, which feels like you’re entering a black box, only enhanced by the intimacy of the Donmar Warehouse. I think they definitely exceeded in creating an atmosphere that doesn’t seem to be explicit in the script.
I’m glad I got to experience this play after much acclaim (particularly as my ticket was free through the Donmar’s Young + Free scheme) but it was a play that just was not for me. But if you like dark and atmospheric plays, it may be for you.
Knives in Hens runs at the Donmar Warehouse until October 7th. For tickets and more information please visit https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/production/6082/knives-in-hens/
Until next time,