The Dog, the Night and the Knife

Theatre, Off-West End
3 out of 5 stars
 (© Richard Lakos)
1/4
© Richard Lakos'The Dog, The Night and the Knife'
 (© Richard Lakos)
2/4
© Richard Lakos'The Dog, The Night and the Knife'
 (© Richard Lakos)
3/4
© Richard Lakos'The Dog, The Night and the Knife'
 (© Richard Lakos)
4/4
© Richard Lakos'The Dog, The Night and the Knife'

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A new, absurd play from German playwright Marius von Mayenberg about a man who can't wake from a nightmare.

Worst. Night. Ever. Not my night, I hasten to add, but that endured by the protagonist – named only M – in this absurdist 2008 play by German writer Marius von Mayenburg.

Walking home one night, M gets lost down a dark street and stumbles upon a guy who has lost his dog. When the dog owner produces a knife, M is forced to stab him in self-defence. From this point on, his hitherto pleasant evening is transformed into a surreal kaleidoscope of death, murder and confusion. The people he meets all look similar, they all talk about eating him, and he uses that same knife to eventually stab everyone of them.

It’s a Kafka-esque nightmare in which M is forced to commit a cycle of heinous acts against his will. At times it is very funny: M’s repeated and exasperated explanation of himself (‘I was just out for mussels with friends!’) is met with a baffled ‘In August?!’, and the text contains some witty meta-theatrical nods.
 
In Rive’s UK premiere production, the stage is bordered by hospital bed curtains, which gives a strong sense that everything we are seeing may be the product of an unhinged, incarcerated mind. The performers are strong: the naivete of Michael Edwards’s posh-voiced M is wonderfully at odds with his murderous actions, while Beth Park and Stephen Ventura play the rest of the parts with a delightfully sinister air.

Oliver Dawe’s snappy production brings out the humour, and there's a great pounding sound design by Helen Skiera. But the play gets too ridiculous and too confusing. Where Kafka’s disturbing worlds reflect our own in a tangible way, this piece feels remote. Possibly an allegory for the fragility of the mind, or our closeness to barbarity, the play’s climactic moments simply don’t offer the focus or answers needed to make this piece resonate.

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