Knives in Hens (David Harrower) Arcola Theatre 27 February


I didn’t understand this.  The idea is that we’re in some kind of pre-industrial nowhere (but they speak with Yorkshire accents and dispense with the definite article the way Yorkshire folk do) and the Young Woman who is married to Pony Williams (they are shown above) gains control of language after visiting the miller (who actively reads and writes) after which the two of them do away with PW (who may have been making love to his own horses or to ‘that Robertson girl’ in the stables) and then they…go their separate ways.

So let’s think about this.  The stage of not understanding figurative language–that something can be ‘like’ something else–lies further back in human development than any culture we have direct evidence for.  Even in Yorkshire.  The fact that the miller has a surname–he’s called Gilbert Horn–means we can’t be any earlier than the 15th century.  The material culture on view (pen, neatly printed books, safety matches (!)) suggests mid-to-late 19th century, and the fact that the Young Woman Working In The Fields could read and write means late 19th century I think.

So I didn’t believe it.  And she killed two hens in one day, just for her and PW??  Furthermore, I was bored–and there were times when I (who spent 15 years or so within the historic boundaries of Yorkshire) couldn’t understand what Jodie McNee as the YW was saying.   While I could understand Phil Cheadle as Miller Gilbert Horn and Nathaniel Martello-White as Pony William, I was no more convinced by them.

The Young Woman–who incidentally wrote down her name as Sarah from where I was sitting–likened her creation-by-naming to sticking a knife in a hen’s stomach, which is where the title comes from.

At least it was only an hour and a quarter!


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