There was I thinking Knives in Hens was one of those plays that didn’t change much from production to production . . . Belgian director Lies Pauwels obviously hasn’t read the rule book.
Pauwels lets the story look after itself while her setting, crisply realised by designer Chloe Lamford, is both a modernist stage – most of the dialogue is delivered through microphones – and an end-of-the-pier funfair. . .
Pauwels matches the primal forces of the play with the primitive pleasures of the fairground, be it the flexing potency of the muscle man or the preening sexuality of the peep show.
The Guardian * * * *
A vaulting horse sits next to a 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 with a Tammy Wynette classic or a Piaf showstopper as the action erupts into a hell-for-leather maelstrom that looks part Olympic gymnastic display, part demented mardi gras.
The Herald * * * *
In this new touring production, the Belgian director Lies Pauwels has not so much staged the play as exploded it to the four corners of the stage and reassembled it in a new, raunchy and disturbing form.
Once again, the National Theatre of Scotland have defied expectations to create a production that reinvents [David] Harrower’s play as the kind of classic text on which directors can unleash their imaginations.
The Scotsman * * * *
Susan Vidler is immense as the unnamed ploughman’s wife, caught between her husband and the village miller. Her hatred of the Miller is tempered by his articulacy and ability to write, while her faithfulness to her husband is destroyed by his own love of his horses.
. . . a thoroughly satisfying and intriguing reinterpretation of a modern Scottish classic.
Lies Pauwels and The National Theatre of Scotland have created a production that can only add to the play’s reputation and have created utterly absorbing drama at the Traverse. There’s a name for this sort of thing and that’s brilliant.
TV Bomb * * * * *
Despite productions abroad numbering in their hundreds, the play has had only one professional revival in Scotland before now. So there is a logic in inviting a director with a European sensibility to show the home audience this modern classic afresh.
And fresh it certainly is.
. . . this thrillingly theatrical production, acted with tremendous commitment, builds moments of real tension. It’s a challenge to anyone who likes their theatre cosy, predictable and polite, but that seems exactly like the kind of challenge the NTS should be laying down.