Whenever I’ve been running a bit low on inspiration for what to watch and review over the last sixteen months, I have known that the Scenesaver platform, with its wide range of eclectic material, will soon get me jump started again. The latest addition to their library is a play with a chequered history – chequered because of the pandemic that is – but one that I’d heard good things about from its brief run at the White Bear last December prior to everything getting locked down – again. It has since further surfaced as an online stream via Greenwich Theatre last February and it is this version that has now been made available more permanently on Scenesaver. Called Bored Of Knives (still somewhat puzzled by that title) it comes from fledgling company Flaw State and is an interesting look at the dynamics of female friendship and some mental health issues.
It’s a two hander play in which the protagonists are not given names, so let’s call them A and B for convenience. Once firm childhood friends they created a den in A’s parent’s shed where they could hang out, dress up, play games and generally live in a typically child friendly fantasy world of their own creation. B’s family then moved away from the area and the girls lost touch. Despite growing physically, A has never really progressed beyond a childlike sensibility and has kept the den as a shrine into her mid-20s; she retreats here when the world gets too much for her (which is often) avoiding all regular contact and continuing to play out her perceivedly secure past. B makes a sudden unannounced reappearance one day and tries to reconnect; she has a hidden agenda which gradually emerges. Aided by a potent cocktail of vodka and Calpol (oh yes) the pair try to pick up where they left off but there’s too much of a history between them and neither is prepared to be truthful about their current lives as they try to pretend that everything is normal. A tries to convince B that she gets her pleasure from casual sexual encounters leading to an excruciating but hilarious scene where she tries to demonstrate her oral technique for her disbelieving companion – I can guarantee you will never look at a Russian matryoshka doll in quite the same way ever again. Meanwhile B tries to convince A that she has formed a stable and loving relationship although the truth soon emerges that she is mired in a cycle of emotional and physical abuse – the very cycle that brought a sudden end to their relationship all those years ago.
Up until this point I found the play engaging, assured and a mostly riveting watch even if questions about the central premise did keep nagging away at me (why, for instance, would A’s parents allow her to carry on in the way that she has?) But I found the denouement rather underwhelming almost as if the writers had run out of steam; it didn’t so much end as tail off. Those writers, Kitty Fox Davis and Megan Louise Wilson, are also the performers with the former playing woman/child A and the latter the apparently more feisty but equally troubled B. They are an excellent double act and bounce well off each other to provide some sharp characterisation and some turbo charged repartee. In their earlier days I could well have seen these roles played by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins though underneath the comedy there is a great deal of pain which these tow actors subtly mine and bring to the surface.
Sophia Charap has created a believable childhood den with many well realised details such as the VHS Disney videos, the stuffed toys and the Fisher Price cassette recorder through which we hear the younger voices of the protagonists. On a pedantic note, it does seem a trifle large for a domestic shed but this has the effect of making the actors seem slightly dwarfed by their surroundings as they would if they were still children. The direction of Tom Ryder and camerawork by Matthew Ferguson also increase interest by moving away from the one camera, one static viewpoint approach and brings in some unusual angles (overhead, from inside a box etc.) which delivers variety and the odd surprise. It’s an assured first piece from this newly developed company who have rolled with the (Covid) punches and produced a piece of digital theatre that was well worth watching. This (and all of Scenesaver’s many many online shows) are free to view so you have absolutely nothing to lose and a good deal to gain. I, for one, will be looking out to see what Flaw State come up with next.
Bored Of Knives is available via the Scenesaver platform- click here
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