In Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre, German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s The Dog, The Night and The Knife is playing its UK premiere. Having been given a copy of the programme, designed to look like a medical report, you begin to wonder whether the absurd play is going to mean that you need your head checked at the end of it – and indeed, you might.
Von Mayenburg’s intense 80-minute long play, translated by Maja Zade, is giving audiences a taste of theatre not really seen in Britain. If you’re looking for a play that has a beginning, middle, end and all the right plot twists in-between, this one is not for you. However, if you just fancy a dark comedy to escape the norm, then it’s definitely worth booking a ticket.
The play follows a man, simply known as ‘M’, as he navigates his way through a mysterious apocalyptic world where wolves roam the street and everybody he meets seems to have the same personality. On meeting a man in the street who has lost his dog, M stabs him in defence, and this sets off a whole series of stabbings across his journey. Hopefully that goes someway into setting the scene a little, however it is the direction and its performances that really drives the evening along.
Director Oliver Dawe creates a disconcerting atmosphere for the play to take place, its clinical set design by Louie Whitmore adding to the feeling that you might actually be in the absurd mind of von Mayenburg himself. Michael Edwards is the man whose life is devoid of any intricacies apart from the fact that he had mussels with friends previous to his world changing completely, and is slightly chilling as the man without a personality. Beth Park and Stephen Ventura both carry the majority of the evening with their slightly demonic characters, all laden with the same dry humour and nonsensical ramblings.
Helen Skiera’s sound design is used quite heavily, but does little to influence the show apart from covering scene changes. A lighting design by Jason Taylor pleasantly lights the intimate studio space, but the real star of the show is the cast.
Without the three multi-skilled actors, the piece could become laborious for those not used to the dramatist’s style, however it is with theirs and the directors skill that the play becomes the absurd, dark evening of entertainment that it is.
The Dog, The Night and The Knife is playing the Arcola Theatre until the 18 October. For more information and tickets see the Arcola Theatre. Photo by Richard Lakos.