Northern Knight’s Productions
The Kings Arms Theatre, Salford
Northern Knight’s is a new theatre company seeking to develop productions exploring working class culture. There is a risk that such an approach could limit them to subjects already covered in depth by television.The background to their first production (inner city deprivation, dysfunctional families) is so familiar as to generate a concern that the play might be predictable. The sheer intensity of the performance and the highly atmospheric production ensures this is not the case.
Jimmy (author and sole performer Taran Knight) is in no doubt that he is not his mother’s favourite child. Younger brother Tommy is the golden boy and, as such, escapes punishment while his older brother is chastised for his pranks. This is unfortunate as Tommy is a nasty piece of work sneakily manipulating his brother and mother. With no positive male role model and an abusive stepfather, it is inevitable that the brothers slide into crime. Jimmy is given an unlikely chance of redemption but family ties are strong and he has never really appreciated the extent to which he has been controlled by his family.
Director Miranda Parker sets a pressure-cooker atmosphere of barely contained violence and a mood of encroaching doom. She also makes sure there is no doubt as to the type of background from which the brothers originate. The show is shamelessly parochial, local place names—including the pub where the show is staged—are regularly dropped. The props are papered with black and white images of Salford and Manchester and a relentless soundtrack of local bands plays throughout.
Taran Knight gives a visceral performance of someone who seems to have no identity of his own. Knight suggests Jimmy is so accustomed to his role of serving the needs of his family, it has become his sole purpose in life. Jimmy is, therefore, a blank personality—he responds to events but makes no plans. Knight makes clear the unpleasant nature of Jimmy’s family—the voices he adopts for Tommy and the mother are grating and heckling.
It is a frighteningly physical performance, enough to intimidate anyone sat on the front row. Knight prowls around the stage like a tiger in a cage barely holding himself from attacking his perceived enemies. At one point, consumed by self-hatred and incapable of expressing himself in any way other than by violence, Jimmy slams his own head on a bench. It is a deeply intense performance and hard to forget.
Northern Knight’s Productions joins the list of companies who have made their first appearance at the GM Fringe and whose return is eagerly awaited.
Reviewer: David Cunningham