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Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

Published 23 August 2017

Christian Cooke stars in Director Yaël Farber’s Donmar debut, Knives In Hens, a haunting and poetic thriller – here’s what Official London Theatre’s Jim Glaub loved about the show, and why you need to see it.

It’s sexy as hell

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

We were just ten minutes into the production before the incredibly sexy Christian Cooke (the ploughman Pony William), sweaty and dirty from a hard day’s work in the field, had his “way” with Judith Roddy (Young Woman), and it wasn’t just me squirming in my seat and sweating from the raw and primal scene before me.

It’s an incredible moment, with a horrifying pay off when the young woman gets her (significantly less sexy) “way” with him at the end of the play.

90 minutes, no interval!

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

Hands down, goodbye forever, full stop, the four greatest words in the theatre.

I love a production that can get everything it needs into a tight 90 minutes, packed full of fast-paced action but still suspenseful to the very end. This show crams its running time full of intrigue, heartbreak and raw art. Out in time for the news, Grandpa.

Staging at its best

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

The gigantic millstone in the back, oppressive and foreboding. The small puddle of water on the stage. The table that becomes a fully pregnant horse. The dirt, the feathers, the flour and water that give it an earthy, familiar feel… like WOMAD after a rainy day.

It’s raw, earthy, primal theatre. With impressive direction by Yaël Farber, the atmosphere is incredible and makes this show, well, just so damn cool. For a taster, listen to her talk about the show in the Donmar’s podcast.

Yes! A strong female lead!

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

Judith Roddy is an incredible actress, and she’s brilliant as a character who is distressed with the situation she was born into. She wants a different life, to plough the last field — meaning her mind, her thoughts. She wants more than just a physical reality, but a spiritual one, an intellectual one.

Like so many female-led stories, we are right there with her, rooting for her. She’ll do whatever it takes to get what she deserves. And, like many other strong protagonists, we’ll forgive her misgivings in exchange for the ultimate goal: Homegirl gets what she wants!

It’s thrilling, box-office gold

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

I was on the edge of my seat throughout the show. What was she intending to do to the Miller? What did she hope to get from Pony William? Wait, is this an affair? OMG, no — wait, is this something more sinister?

Without giving too much away, you realise she’s in control of the story after all — the field, the horses, the earth and her future, and she’ll use these men to get it. I’m surprised Lars Von Trier hasn’t turned this into a feature film yet, with this cast. Can we make this happen? I’ll invest, take my money.

Come on, it’s the Donmar Warehouse!

Reasons to see: Knives In Hens

As if you needed another reason!

The Donmar is an institution and their space is so dope. Go early and grab a drink on the second floor. A dark, raw night at the theatre awaits you. Go!

Knives In Hens plays at the Donmar Warehouse until Saturday 7 October. You can book your tickets through the venue’s website.

Post by Jim Glaub; production photos by Marc Brenner


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