Four Nights in Knaresborough
Paul Webb's play has been paired with the Octagon's last production of David Halliwell's Little Malcolm's Struggle Against the Eunuchs in a mini-series entitled "Men Behaving Badly". Both plays focus on the behaviour of four men and the influence of one woman on them, but they are set nearly eight hundred years apart.
The four knights in Four Nights are based on the real killers of Thomas Becket in 1171 who spent a year holed up together at Knaresborough Castle after Becket's death. It is a waiting play, like Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or, of course, Beckett's (the other one) Waiting For Godot, where instead of developing a plot, the action of the play consists of a sequence of events that happen between the characters while they wait for something to happen over which they have no control. Many of these events are beautifully polished set pieces that are often very funny, such as the moment when Traci (Matthew Rixon) overcomes his constipation or the removal of Brito's (Ben Hull) aching tooth with a huge pair of pliers, accompanied by an agonising crack when the tooth breaks. There are also some more serious stories, such as Fitz (Graham McTavish) and Traci's secret homosexuality and past relationship with one another and Morville (Marshall Griffin) and Brito's love for the same woman, Catherine (Laura Richmond).
The dialogue is in a modern style, but the historical information surrounding the death of Becket suggests that the play has been well researched and the developments from the facts seem plausible. Richard Foxton's set and costume designs suggest the medieval setting nicely without being hampered by too much historical accuracy. The ensemble acting is excellent, including from Christopher Wright who plays a number of characters, most of whom get killed.
At two hours ten minutes plus an interval, this is quite long for a play without any real plot to follow. However it still manages to be very entertaining, funny and thought provoking with slick direction from Mark Babych.
Four Nights In Knaresborough runs until 27th March 2004
Reviewer: David Chadderton