'The Knot of The Heart' review or 'Oh shoot, I've gone and shot up again.'

'The Knot of the Heart', David Eldridge
Almeida Theatre, Thursday 17th March 2011
Written for The Ham & High

Lisa Dillon as Lucy, Margaret Leicester as Barbara. Photo Credit: Keith Pattison

Last time Lisa Dillon was on stage, she was swanning across The Old Vic boards in Coward’s crackling comedy, ‘Design for Living.’ Decked out in gleaming dresses and embroiled in sparkling banter, she was the epitome of elegant grace. David Eldridge wanted Dillon to tackle something grittier so in his new play, ‘The Knot of the Heart, Dillon’s character, Lucy, is still pretty posh - but instead of quaffing champagne and exchanging quips, she’s shooting up and sharing needles.

Lucy slides down after shooting up

But Lucy's problems are only the beginning and, in Eldridge's play, it isn't just high class drugs that the middle class are dealing in. Mother, Barbara (Margot Leicester), is all but surgically attached to a glass of red wine throughout the play and sister, Angela (Abigal Cruttenden), used to self harm. Few issues are left unexplored, few veins untapped or scars unexamined.

It's all pretty heavy-work and Lucy's sliding descent, despite Attenborough's assured direction, becomes predictable. Peter McKintosh's revolving set turns into a Russian roulette of despair. With each turn of the stage, the misery is notched up: Lucy smokes up in the garden, Lucy winds up in hospital, Lucy shoots up, Lucy is raped and Lucy goes in, and out, then in again to countless Crisis Centres.

The characters are tough to like and develop only marginally, despite the whirlpool of misery that engulfs them. Dillon is great at being hostile and prickly or dazed and despairing but her role feels brittle. Her character is perpetually at crisis point and we rarely see the more complicated moments that lie between the highs and the lows.

What is interesting is the mutually destructive relationship between drug-dependent Lucy and her alcoholic mother. This twisted but loving relationship is the heart Eldridge's play but he only scratches the ugly scars on the surface. 


  1. I felt that this play was enjoyable as a dramatic piece - it was a sleek, fast-paced, gripping production with good all round performances. But I couldn't tell if the play was aiming to do more than that. In these interesting times, the play came across as one of self indulgence.


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