Knot Theory presents a new piece of writing about the decline of a suburban family in a piece of new writing by Niki Orfanou. The piece clearly has poetic and dramatic potential, but unfortunately fails to prove itself as anything more than a superficial pseudo-analysis of familial destruction.
The first major problem with this production is specificity. The only factual elements that the audience can grab onto are the roles of the family members (and even here they stop at ‘Mother’, ‘Father’, ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’). Beyond this, nothing else is concrete or even barely decipherable. The ‘poetry’ of the writing is convoluted and lacks the tenderness necessary to create believable characters beyond the stereotypes we are presented with. The most frustrating example of the play’s vagueness, however, is a constant wavering between fantasy and reality. There aren’t sufficient clues for an audience to recognise what, when, where, and why the current scene is occurring. Questioning the purpose of each scene is a fruitless endeavour thereby rendering each vignette ultimately pointless and undeniably irritating.
Blackouts between each scene hindered the flow of the production and were another cause of irritation. Each blackout allowed for a change of set, but the minimal set design and clear distinction between each scene heralded by the change of characters on stage made the lengthy blackouts feel unwarranted.
The style of this piece is also indistinct. Performance and direction tend to lean towards abstract and stylised characters, but this stylisation makes the acting seem ham and depthless, especially when dealing with such an intricate subject matter. Some slip-ups in the writing style also create jarring moments that throw an audiences’ focus, disallowing emotional investment in the situation as it unfolds. For instance, throwaway comments about the Oedipus complex leave us wondering about sordid subtext that is never capitalised on or explained and makes the character of the Mother alien to us.
The subject matter of the play is fertile soil for a fantastic production and some moments in the play certainly show promise. However, I fear that the piece needs to be given more focus. The vagueness of the play is unsatisfying whether or not it was intentional and leaves the audience feeling cheated rather than intrigued.