Review: The Knot
Image courtesy Old Red Lion Theatre
Cast and creatives
Caolán Dundon - Aiden
Aiyaz Ahmed - Imran
“Marriage is this contract everybody signs whilst ignoring the fine print - but we all know what it says.
It tells us that this relationship will become stale and mechanical and it won't be long before everything that can be said has been said; every emotion you can feel towards this person, you will have felt.
You will exhaust every possible opportunity for excitement, any chance for discovery.
My point is, believe me when I say I know what I'm getting myself in to.
I'm not trying to say marriage is bullshit.
All I'm saying is pick the right person.”
Aiden is trying to bring his Argentinian fiancé to the UK but their relationship is cracking under the weight of bureaucracy.
Imran left his Pakistani family to marry an Indian.
After twenty years of marriage, he has just discovered his wife cheating and now has to endure a lengthy divorce process.
Two men - different in age, ethnicity, and personality - face parallel struggles when it comes to making their marriages work.
Told through funny and poignant monologues, Aiden and Imran share intertwining stories that confront an uncomfortable question: when is it worth untying the knot?
Based on the lived experiences of the actors themselves, 'The Knot' is an incredibly intimate, personal and timely show that addresses themes of masculinity, culture clash and how the government can become too involved in our romantic lives.
The show is transferring from its successful run at the Tristan Bates Theatre, where it enjoyed a great audience and critical reception.
A quick glance at the latest figures, compiled by the Office for National Statistics, shows a slight increase in weddings in the UK between opposite-sex couples for 2016, over the number a year earlier.
But time series figures reveal a gradual long-term decline since 1972 in the number of opposite-sex marriages.
The figures suggest that the prospect of undertaking to live with someone "'til death us do part" by entering into a formal contract, is less appealing than it might once have been.
However, a quarter of a million couples each year still take the, possibly onerous, life-changing step of getting hitched.
In case you were wondering, the number of divorces amounted to just over 100,000 (among the same population) in 2017, the latest year for which the ONS has compiled figures.
Dan Daniel's The Knot offers a glimpse into two relationships on different sides of the marital state - recounted for us by men.
Married for almost 2 decades, Imran has recently discovered that his wife has been having an affair and has decided to divorce her.
Aiden is trying to bring his fiancé to the UK from Argentina in order to actually 'tie the knot' and is facing the difficulties of not only keeping the fires of a long-distance romance burning, but is also struggling against government bureaucracy in trying to secure a visa for his partner.
Much of this play is delivered as two separate monologues from the principal characters - the action focusing alternately between that two, and with the actors assisting their counterparts by playing other characters as events unfold.
Engaging performances from both actors ably describe real and quite ordinary characters who are encountering fairly typical and unexceptional (but sometimes humorous) situations.
That makes the play authentically believable and interestingly relevant since we're not being asked to consider events that are outlandish, extraordinary or overly contrived.
And the juxtaposition of examining the situations of men of differing ages and experiences of marriage allows for ample and suitable contrast.
But the connection between the two men's individual situations seems unclear, leaving me struggling to latch on to the play's big messages and what it is asking us to conclude about marriage in general, or how men in particular relate to the marital state.
The play does clearly demonstrate that some situations make it almost as difficult to tie the marriage knot as it is to undo it.
Both men encounter considerable bureaucracy - Aiden in dealing with the ludicrously long visa application process, and Imran in instigating divorce proceedings (where even the first stage is complex, time-consuming and expensive).
We also find both men seeking comfort and possible sexual gratification from women other than their partners - in Aiden's case, he's actually encouraged to do so by his fiancé - illustrating that men are (obviously) drawn to companionship.
Splitting the play into two halves seemed to unnecessarily elongate proceedings, disturbing and disrupting the overall flow in the process and without any perceptible compensating benefits for the audience.
And though marriage is certainly ripe for new treatments and perspectives, The Knot falls short in making its intentions plain, even if it's down-to-earth approach to the subject is certainly laudable.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Old Red Lion Theatre
Our show listing for The Knot
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