Review of Four Nights in Knaresborough written for www.remotegoat.co.uk 4 stars
"Thomas à Becket was a fuckwit. Discuss." Wouldn't it be great to open a GSCE History paper and see that? It makes an equally good starting point for Paul Webb's historical comic psychodrama - if that's a genre - at Southwark Playhouse.
Four Nights in Knaresborough follows the conspirators in Becket's murder as they flee adverse 'public opinion' - which travels at only the speed of a rider on horseback and takes nearly a year to catch up with them - to their hideout in a draughty Yorkshire castle. Without support from the King, Henry's men are left to contemplate their motives, their paranoia and their sexuality in an intensely-acted and ultimately enjoyable production.
It's played with anachronistic, idiomatic dialogue which is initially unnerving but works well to convey the machismo motivations to a modern audience. I also liked the incidental music: rock, metal and thrash - and was that really a bit of The Stranglers?
Rather like the dugout occupants in Journey's End, the four Knights have disparate conflicting characters: the know-it-all, the peacemaker, the laddish upstart and the maverick, brothers in arms on the surface but sexually urgent and combative underneath.
The audience seemed to side immediately with Tom Greaves' priapic Brito, the young Estuarian upstart whose chippy spirit unnerves the broodingly undpredictable Fitz played fiercely by Alex Hughes in an initially psychotic performance which gives the piece genuine pathos when he talks about his lost son. The more heartfelt writing in this section late in the piece feels like an antidote to the broader comedy which focuses on some (very good) cock and turd jokes.
As the Blair-like apologist for the political actions, David Sturzaker illuminated de Traci's struggle between duty and devotion, and public and private feelings, in an intense and intelligently centred performance.
The feelings of loneliness and despair are well-realised through Martin Thomas' shadowy design, and whilst the direction by Seb Billings gives clarity to the characterizations, the piece feels a fraction overlong.
Thanks to everyone who joined Erin Kelly, Melanie McGrath and me at Mansfield Central Library on Saturday 25 February. We had a panel discussion and Q&A, ...