REVIEW: The Knot (Tristan Bates Theatre) ★★★★

Writer/Director Dan Daniels explores the male perspective on relationships as two very different characters share their history, their feelings and the great dilemmas they are wrestling with through a series of amusing and heartfelt monologues in The Knot at Tristan Bates Theatre.

Struggling young actor Aiden (Caolan Dundan) is trying to navigate the UK immigration system in order to get a Visa for his Argentinian fiancé Camile and is frustrated by the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Imran (Aiyaz Ahmed) manages a call centre in London but his quiet suburban life has been turned up-side down after discovering his wife of 20 years, Hardeep, has been having an affair.

Both men begin their monologues with a rhetorical question, who in the audience is married and was it worth it. This is the core of the narrative, are the sacrifices, compromises and restrictions their relationships require worth it for the benefits of maintaining relationship or are they just going through the motions because that is what is expected. They take it turns to bring us into their world, describing how they met their partners, how their lives have unfolded since they met and how they feel now. We also hear one-side, theirs, of phone calls to their unseen and unheard partners and occasional conversations with other characters played by the other actor, such as Imran trying to explain to his son why Daddy has moved out.

Dan Daniel’s script is funny but with a sensitive rather than bitter humour. Some of the metaphors, like the feeling of wanting to sneeze, are stretched to breaking point but Daniels always is able to draw back from the brink and avoids drifting into stereotype. Both characters feel well considered and realistic without being anything out of the ordinary. Whilst the choices they make might not be popular they still feel in keeping with what we know about them. Finishing the play on a cliff-hanger was an intelligent and interesting choice that definitely adds value. Daniel’s direction also works well by setting a good pace that means the 90 minutes absolutely flies by. The simple and effective design makes best use of the small space available and makes sure the focus remains on the characters.

Both actors perform well, with generally excellent timing in delivering the jokes and able to find real emotions for the more sensitive sections. Dundon shows real charm but understands when he has to drop his smooth front to show a vulnerable side. Ahmed is able to appear relaxed and jovial, but then is just as successful as his character becomes more reflexive and starts to re-explore his faith. In the few sections when they act together the pair work just as well with a fourth wall imposed on them.

This play definitely presents a male perspective but this is not a toxic masculinity or presenting testosterone fuelled laddish behaviour. Instead it explores the choices presented to men in relationships and their struggles with making the right decisions. The production is well considered and professionally delivered, so is a good showcase for both the writer and the performers.

Reviewed by Kris Witherington


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