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The Knot – Old Red Lion Theatre, London

Writer and director: Dan Daniel

Reviewer: Stephen Bates

To tie the knot or untie it? Those are the questions facing the two men in Dan Daniel’s play. One fights the faceless bureaucracy of United Kingdom immigration officialdom to bring his future wife to the country, while the other wrestles with the complexities of our divorce laws. Their plights benefit no one, except, of course, the legal profession.

The play consists of two intercut monologues, with one actor occasionally taking a part in the other’s story and, at one point, the two interact with each other when their characters’ paths cross. We are told that writer/director Daniel based the play “on the lived experience of the actors themselves”. The running time is approximately 90 minutes, but this is stretched out further by an interval (for reasons of heat and comfort” the box office informs).

Aiden (Caolán Dundon) is an Irish actor who has moved to London to find work. He has a holiday romance with an Argentinian girl and comes home to dump his long-time girlfriend and plan a future via long distance telephone calls. Although the girl from South America is a highly qualified scientist, the United Kingdom authorities refuse her a visa to live here, while Aiden refuses to contemplate moving to Argentina. His greatest achievement as an actor has been to star in a pot noodle advertisement, which, he assures us, pays more than performing in a room above a pub (no hat is passed round).

In the process of answering countless questions from the authorities, Aiden is asked to show that he has the capacity to support his future wife and, as he hasn’t, he takes a job in a call centre where Imran (Aiyaz Ahmed) becomes his boss. Imran is a shy Glaswegian of Pakistani Muslim origin who has already told us that he had married a woman of Indian Sikh origin and moved to London to escape the wrath of both families. Now the marriage has gone wrong and Imran’s wife has been unfaithful. He looks to the painful process of divorce.

The scenes in which the two characters interact suggest that the play would have been made a great deal more involving if we could have seen other characters instead of just hearing about them. As it is, Daniel’s production, performed on a stage that is empty apart from three wooden boxes, feels rather flat, Dundon and Ahmed narrating with clarity, but without exceptional conviction.

We look for universal truths in all this but they are hard to find. The actors ask the audience “are you married”, “are you divorced”, trying to make connections, and then tell us stories that come across as just two out of millions of different ones, padding them with very specific details. They are stories and no more, tied too loosely to common experience to matter much to anyone other than those directly involved.

Runs until 6 July 2019 | Image: Dan Daniel

Writer and director: Dan Daniel Reviewer: Stephen Bates To tie the knot or untie it? Those are the questions facing the two men in Dan Daniel’s play. One fights the faceless bureaucracy of United Kingdom immigration officialdom to bring his future wife to the country, while the other wrestles with the complexities of our divorce laws. Their plights benefit no one, except, of course, the legal profession. The play consists of two intercut monologues, with one actor occasionally taking a part in the other’s story and, at one point, the two interact with each other when their characters’ paths cross.…

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Tied loosely

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