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Knives in Hens
Studio Theatre, 2003

Cast & Crew



Press Release: October 6, 2003

Press Release - October 6, 2003

The Graduate Centre for Study of Drama

David Harrower

The Graduate Centre for Study of Drama is proud to present the Toronto premiere of Knives in Hens, by award-winning Scottish playwright David Harrower, at the Studio Theatre, October 22nd – November 2nd, directed by Natalie Harrower.

“A small, almost perfect theatrical jewel” – (The Express)

Set in an elemental, rural landscape, David Harrower’s Knives in Hens follows a young woman’s journey from superstition and fear to a life where imagination is liberating and language has the power to transform. The shifting relationships of the young woman, her husband, and an outcast miller reflect a world where darkly erotic visions are as real as the black earth turned by a ploughman’s hand. First performed at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in 1995, Knives in Hens has since been produced in over 20 countries. Receiving critical and popular praise the world over, and winning the Berlin Critics Award for Best Foreign Play in 1997, Knives in Hens has been hailed as “one of the most remarkable and moving debuts of the 1990’s” (The Guardian).

Beginning his professional theatre career in 1995 with the widely-acclaimed Knives in Hens at the Traverse Theatre, Glasgow’s David Harrower has gone on to produce an eclectic range of works for the stage. His most recent play, Dark Earth, premiered at the Traverse in August. In 2002 he penned a version of Ivanov for the National Theatre, which was directed by Katie Mitchell, and 2001 saw the premiere of three works: the original play Presence at the Royal Court Theatre in London, and adaptations of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Young Vic, and Buchner’s Woyzeck at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. Other works include: Kill the Old and Torture Their Young (1998), the libretto for Opera Circus’ Cat Man’s Tale (1997) and a stage adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel The Chrysalids. He is currently under commission by the Traverse Theatre, The Royal National Theatre Studio, The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal Court Theatre.

Natalie Harrower last worked at the Studio Theatre in 2001, where she directed the Canadian premiere of Portia Coughlan, by Marina Carr. Knives in Hens stars Justin Conley, Michelle Girouard, and Scott Moore.

Knives in Hens
Studio Theatre

4 Glen Morris Street
October 22 – November 2, 2003
Wed – Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm
$15/$10 Students and Seniors, Sun PWYC
Group Rates: $12/$8 students & seniors
Box Office: 416-978-7986

Review: October 27, 2003
Read the full review below, or view it on the original site here

Scene Around Town: Knives In Hens
by Robert Ormsby

October 27, 2003
University theatre departments sometimes prove to be troves of rather curious treasures. Only last week, the University of Toronto’s Graduate Drama Centre gave us a glimpse of what is sure to be one of the most provocative shows of 2004, when Marcus Youssef and Guillermo Verdecchia read from “The Adventures of Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil” (at Passe Muraille in February-March).

Now the Drama Centre delivers David Harrower’s strange but fascinating “Knives in Hens,” a stark and archetypal piece about a Young Woman (Michelle Girouard) who marries William, the intense village ploughman and apparent horse-whisperer (Justin Conley).

The Young Woman’s world unravels (and reravels), however, after she is forced to take the farm’s wheat to the Miller (Scott Moore), a man hated by the villagers who regard him as an indolent parasite, skimming the top off the rewards of their labour.

Although this is by no means the fist remount of the 1995 award-winning drama, director Natalie Harrower draws some compelling performances from her actors in an often brutal production in the close quarters of the Glen Morris Studio Theatre.

Moore, who is hands-down the most talented male comedic actor not regularly working Equity gigs in Toronto, is cast against type as the Miller, and if this does not always work perfectly, it is worth watching this performer stretch himself in the role. Conley and Girouard, however, are well-suited to the bare-bones lyricism of playwright Harrower’s dialogue, and both revel in its Faulknerian aura of earthy—even loamy—eroticism and mysticism.

Girouard is particuarly magnetic, shifting slowly from a raw, almost formless, creature amazed at the world which surrounds her, to a cunning adulterer once William leaves her fallow. Somehow she continually gives the impression that she is holding something back, something unsaid, and it is hard to keep our eyes off of her.

With such performances, director Harrower has done well to keep much of the action close to us in the narrow playing space inches from the first row. This proximity, added to the simple staging, makes for an unrelenting presentation (neither Harrower offers any comic relief) and a sense that the inevitable is unfolding before us.

“Knives in Hens” is not the most comforting theatre you will see this fall—few harshly primal meditations on murder, lust, and the sacred are. But it manages to be simultaneously elusive, riveting, and disturbing, reason enough not to miss it.

“Knives in Hens” continues at the Glen Morris Studio Theatre until November 2. For tickets, call 416-978-7986.

creative pages last updated June 15. 2006