Wednesday, August 19, 2020

292. KNOTS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

KNOTS [Literary Anthology/British] AD/D: Edward Petherbridge; SC: R.D. Laing’s book, Knots; L: Clare Fox; M: Martin Duncan; P: Brooklyn Academy of Music i/a/w Brooklyn College in the Actors Company Production; T: Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 1/30/74-2/24/74 (5)

Note: photos are not available for Knots.

Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing’s popular book of linguistic paradoxes, or “knots,” based on psychological tangles in human relationships (“I am bad. You love me. Therefore you are bad” is a simple Laingian syllogism) was cleverly transformed by British actor Edward Petherbridge into a lighthearted, hour-long music hall entertainment. It was offered as part of a four-show repertory during a month-long stay at BAM by London's Actors Company. The conundrums were performed by speaking and singing them in duos, trios, and quartets, and by spoofing the material through performing it while tap dancing, doing cartwheels, vaudeville bits, juggling hoops and clubs, playing musical instruments, clowning around, and being generally irreverent.

The conception and fast-paced execution delighted Clive Barnes, but Walter Kerr thought the “knots” too “elusive” to capture. Edith Oliver found the staging made the words meaningful, and enjoyed the show as a parody of avant-garde theatre in general. John Simon, on the other hand, objected to this “desperately coy and aggressively arch” show for being tiresome and repetitious.

Cast members included Petherbridge, Ian McKellen, Sheila Reid, Robert Eddison, and others.