“In this place every child is destined to be a soldier,” the front of the programme reads. Going into a show about war you would assume that there will be some violence, some destruction and definitely some heartbreak – all the inevitable consequences of being in the army.
However, in Knock Knock the focus is on the mother of a child who she knows will one day have to join the army – as all 18 year olds growing up in Israel must. In fact, each generation will have tales to share from their time serving in the national service. This show serves to shed light on the more emotional side of war and considers the family left behind, who worry that one day they will hear that knock on the door that could change their lives.
The story follows a single mother raising her only son while working for the army and supporting bereaved families. As someone who deals with families who have lost their children at war, her son’s future in the army is a looming presence that she tries to ignore until the time comes.
Niv Petel, who writes as well as performs solo, is very insightful and thoughtful. Even as someone who has seen family members complete their national service, the show provides a completely unique angle to growing up in Israel.
We never see the boy but Petel, who plays the mother, has conversations and interactions with the child that are so real and so believable, heightening the emotion of the play. Petel is also a phenomenal physical actor and only ever shows glimpses of the army through some incredible mime and sound effects.
The audience are asked to rely heavily on their imagination in the show whether it be a crying baby wrapped in a blanket, a child building a sandcastle on the beach or a mother having an argument with her teenage son.
It’s interesting that Petel should choose to play the mother himself, although he does so very convincingly. It would be interesting to know why he made this choice. In the programme notes he says that the show is inspired by real events which suggests that he is using his own experience to hone in on the emotions of his character.
Even the little conversations the mother and son have as he’s growing up are vital to showing how difficult it is for a parent to let their child go, a sentiment that can be understood in any country, I’m sure. It is not so much a play about war, rather war is just the background for this tale – making makes it all the more powerful.
Knock Knock plays at The Etcetera Theatre until November 6.
Photo: Chris Gardner