Knife Edge features chicken and chips, and big dreams for a girl who knows she deserves more from life than the abandonment and abuse she’s received thus far. The play is produced by The Big House, a charity set up three years ago, which aims to help young people leaving care to fulfil their potential. Over a 12-week period, the cast – 80% of whom have never acted before – worked with a creative team led by The Big House founder and show director, Maggie Norris, to devise the production. Blending real-life experiences with wickedly satisfying revenge and heartwarming fairytale, the team explore the cycle between leaving the care system and ending up in prison in a well-rounded story.
With a local cast, it’s fitting that Knife Edge is set in east London. Our protagonist, the Girl With No Name (Tezlym Senior Sakutu) has been in care since her mother died when she was eight-years-old. She has anger issues and she’s fed up, but she knows there’s more out there for her than her rude, aggressive boyfriend Aaron (Adam Deacon) whose big dreams include involving her in a threesome. Over the course of this promenade play, the cast dance and sing us between the two performance spaces: one a sparse room of crates and concrete, the other the Pond restaurant. The show’s narrators interject the story, communicating directly with Girl like her fairy godparents and reminding her of her power to create her own fate. We follow Girl’s moving journey as she learns of her father’s death, struggles with the isolating and alienating social care system and eventually meets her dad’s business partner and a gaggle of half-siblings.
Sakutu, who we’re told has never acted before, brings maturity and emotional intelligence to her role, carrying the narrative and our interest throughout. Deacon, who’s proved his talent playing the lead role in the films Kidulthood (2006) and Adulthood (2008), brings an appropriately gruff selfishness to the part of Aaron. Amy Mae’s lighting design fuels the atmosphere and focuses our attention on the rapidly shifting drama, whilst Kwame Dallas’s acoustic music transports us physically between rooms and mentally across the world.
Whilst certain scenes, such as the revelation of the siblings, could benefit from being chopped slightly, David Watson has written a well-developed story with opening scenarios – such as the necklace in Nando’s – resurfacing fittingly before the end. Importantly, Knife Edge has a clear underlying theme of the importance of being loved and feeling part of a family, which firmly aligns with the work of The Big House. The post-show feast is both delicious to eat and a good fun chance for audience and cast to mingle with the barriers broken down.
Knife Edge is playing at the Pond Dalston until 12 June. For more information and tickets, see The Big House website. Photo: Catherine Ashmore