An organisation who work with young care leavers at a high risk of social exclusion, The Big House Theatre Company use theatre to inspire, develop and facilitate personal growth for their members. Their current production, Knife Edge, is taking place at Pond Dalston throughout May and June this year.
The play’s plot centres around a London teen who has had a rocky start in life; but for what she lacks in a conventional family background, she makes up for in aggression, loneliness and a deafening air of vulnerability.
Essentially, she’s living on a knife edge between two starkly different life paths.
A story of ‘food, fear and family’ - and with a wealth of other interesting characters also in the mix - the realness of this production shines through above all else. They’re exploring huge themes, touching on social upbringing and the very real struggles of those that have experienced the care system; and they deliver the message in an unapologetically-coherent fashion.
A visceral performance in every sense of the word, the storyline was raw, honest and gave a real insight into the anger of disenfranchised youth culture, not only in relation to upbringing, but also taking aim at the future prospects available to many young adults in this country.
With elements of a dark comedy and a gritty thriller; it’s hard to label Knife Edge with a defined genre. Without giving too much of the story away, the play follows ‘a girl with no name’ on a journey of mistrust, abandonment and ultimately, a chance at redemption. Flitting between different periods of her life (and even a brief foray into her subconscious), you can’t help but be completely drawn into her emotive world, throughout the entire production. The Chorus talk directly to the crowd, as well as the characters, and act as a great bridge between the audience and cast, which really adds to the interactive element of the show.
Knife Edge is a ‘promenade production’, meaning the audience is standing at all times, and follows the cast around the various parts of the set as each scene develops.
Outside of the plot, the really clever thing about this play is the staging and interaction. Most of the cast interact with the audience in some way, whether that’s directly addressing them, or ushering them to the next scene. Every part of the venue seems to be used, and though Pond is a successful and functioning restaurant in its own right, it really feels like it was made with the specific purpose of hosting this play. The actors use the bar, the dining space and even the kitchen as part of the story, using minimal props and a creative approach to the warehouse-styled restaurant set-up.
The key here is to not be shy yourself. As the audience are constantly moving, you can sometimes find yourself with a bad vantage-point. But if you do, make sure just to shuffle around into a better position – don’t worry too much about interrupting anything. The cast act around you, often squeezing through the audience mid-scene, and certainly didn’t seem perturbed by their surroundings or the proximity of the crowd.
The show itself ‘begins with a murder, and ends with a feast’. And what a feast it was. The end scene of the play culminates in a restaurant, with the characters ‘preparing’ a meal for the audience to enjoy.
Pond is famed for bringing modern-but-authentic Hawaiian fare to London, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Serving a traditional luau-style feast, we were treated to delicious whole sea-bass, tasty grilled chicken and plenty of flavour-packed sides. It’s a communal set-up so you get a chance to chat to other guests and the cast while you enjoy the food.
Knife Edge was dark, engaging and inspiring. I was bowled over by the production, the cast and the plot. Part of the price of your ticket also goes towards supporting the charity and organisation. The play is an absolute must-see for anyone wanting to take part in a genuinely-unique theatre experience.