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Knives in Hens

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Two kilt-clad women tear around a bottle-strewn stage flashing their
knickers to the strains of Lulu's 1969 Eurovision winner Boom
Bang-A-Bang, repeatedly whipped off their feet by a similarly apparelled
man who looks like he's fallen off a Scots Porridge Oats ad. A vaulting
horse sits next to a brightly-coloured mini carousel on which assorted
bodies collapse. Three microphone stands are lined up in front,
enabling actors Duncan Anderson, Susan Vidler and Owen Whitelaw plus
dancer Vicki Manderson to be heard above the din, be it a Tammy Wynette
classic or an Edith Piaf showstopper as the action erupts into a
hell-for-leather maelstrom that looks part Olympic gymnastic display,
part demented mardi gras.

These aren't the most obvious trappings to accompany David Harrower's
1996 play, a flint-hard rural affair about a woman who finds liberation
from her faithless marriage to a ploughman through the power of words
taught to her by the local miller. Normally played in a super-realist
manner, Belgian director Lies Pauwels has ripped up the rule book for
her National Theatre of Scotland revival, installing the full stylistic
kit and kaboodle more readily associated with Victoria, the European
enfants terrible she has worked extensively with.

Hatherley's Miller is a twitching, stammering misfit, while the Woman's
ongoing self-discovery is signalled by Vidler donning fur coat, high
heels and Jackie O shades as she wiggles her tush for all she's worth.
Purists will hate it, but through all the libidinous mess a series of
rituals are played out signalling a much bigger sense of renewal that
goes beyond words to get a grip of the body politic in all its lusty

The Herald, June 9th 2011


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