Theatre: Four Nights in Knaresborough


A play about the men who assassinated Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1171 seems an unlikely source of an entertaining night. But this production at the Southwark Playhouse of Four Nights in Knaresborough is so sexually charged, so pumped up and full of machismo and so bloody and funny that it is hard to resist.

Paul Webb's play first appeared in London in 1999 and has been given various comparisons to Reservoir Dogs, Blackadder and A Knights Tale (the film that made Heath Ledger a Hollywood star). It is a sharp and funny take on historical events where the four knights responsible for the assassination flee north to Knaresborough castle where they stay for over a year.

What may or may not have happened while they were there is not clear, but in this telling of the story the characters talk about perpetual hard-ons and wanking as they complain about the wine, the weather and the fact they are essentially imprisoned in their own castle. Some of this is anachronistic, but you begin to accept this as the play unfolds (along with the fantastic soundtrack that is certainly not inspired by any music from the period).

There is a love interest, and not just with Catherine, the woman who stays when the servants flee. The introduction of a love triangle between the men is introduced rather matter-of-factly without much fuss, along with other references to the men having sex with men. This play explores the natural practicalities I suppose of being in cold damp castle for a year where there is only one hot woman around...

But against the comedy and tenderness are the inevivitable shocks and ordeals that lie ahead that include some terrific fight scenes and tense moments that will have you on the edge of your seat.

The cast are excellent and there is a sense of chemistry between them that makes you feel as if they really have bonded through their bloody experiences. And the layers of characterisations that emerge as the play unfolds make it all rather satisfying.

This is a slick production that makes great use of the railway arches of the Southwark Playhouse. The sound effects are complimented by the rumbles of the trains above. Candles drip wax. It may not be cold in the theatre, but it is so moody is damp-like that you could be forgiven to wanting to wrap up in sympathy with the characters.

Photo: Lee Williams as Morville and Twinnielee Moore as Catherine (Production Photo)

Half time Audioboo with @Johnnyfoxlondon showed we were ready for more... Although maybe the second half could have been a little bit shorter.

Booing up the back of the Southwark Playhouse: Four Nights in Knaresborough (mp3)

The show runs until August 13 and tickets are available from the Southwark Playhouse website. It is a great alternate venue to the West End and a short walk from London Bridge. I also discovered a gastropub nearby that had a "Monday night is sausage night" menu. Now who could resist a few bangers before a 7.45 show?



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