Knives in Hens

It was a last minute decision to go and see Knives in Hens, mainly because of the direction of Yaël Farber, whose work I tend to really like. The play was written by David Harrower and originally premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1995. It’s a three-person drama set in a northern rural landscape in pre-industrial Britain.

Village ploughman Pony William has recently married and William has a tendency to dominate his new wife. She becomes interested in the local miller, who lives alone after the mysterious death of his wife. The two grow closer, brought together by the power of words and language, and eventually, something snaps and they commit an irretrievable deed.

Judith Roddy is superb in her role as Young Woman, while Matt Ryan’s miller is compelling and magnetic. Christian Cooke lends Pony William a towering physicality.

Farber’s production and Soutra Gilmour’s set, dominated by a giant millstone, are incredibly atmospheric, conveying the wide open spaces of the rural landscape, while the language, difficult to follow at first, conveys the character of the people in the drama. As a whole the effect is one of raising this three-person rural drama to the heights of Greek tragedy – not an easy feat.

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