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 The Theatreguide.London Review

No's Knife
Old Vic Theatre  Autumn 2016

Actress-director-adaptor Lisa Dwan, last seen in London two years ago in a program of three short plays for women by Samuel Beckett, returns with her own adaptation of Beckett's less-known Texts For Nothing. 

The result will be of most interest to Beckett fans looking to fill a hole in their experience of the master and to those wanting a lot of capital-A Acting for their ticket price. 

Originally a string of thirteen independent monologues, the fragmented pieces flow together in Dwan's adaptation, with only set and lighting changes suggesting that there is more than one voice here. 

Dwan performs one section from a crevice in a rock face, one while sitting in a hanging cage, and two (or possibly three) others on the rubble-strewn stage. 

As in even his most obscure works, Beckett offers some anchors in reality for his performers to build characterisations on one voice seems to be leaving someplace (home?) despite the demands of another (mother?), one is or imagines herself a court reporter observing a trial. 

But as editor of the text, actress and co-director with Joe Murphy, Lisa Dwan does very little with these hints, choosing rather to use the just-over-an-hour performance to display her vocal virtuosity. 

That's what I meant by capital-A Acting Dwan's performance consists of rapid and extreme shifts in volume, pitch, tone, intensity and speed of delivery, seeming too often to be there just to show that she can do it rather than reflecting the meanings or emotions within what she's saying. 

She is perfectly still at some moments and flails her arms about wildly at others, again communicating less about the text than about the performer's technical skill. 

If you start from the assumption that, since this is Beckett, you're not going to understand it, then all the actress's Acting may convince you that you are seeing something more than just an empty display of technique. 

But if you are looking to the performer to interpret and bridge the gap between author and audience, you are going to be disappointed. 

No's Knife is more about how much Lisa Dwan can Act than about Samuel Beckett.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  No's Knife  - Old Vic Theatre 2016  

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