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Arts | By Paul Bailey | October 2017

Knives in Hens, Against, Apologia

It is easy to see why David Harrower’s bleak and unusual play Knives in Hens was critically acclaimed when it was first performed, in Edinburgh, in June 1995. It is set in pre-industrial times, most likely the Middle Ages, when those deemed heretics were ritually disposed of in the name of God. Controversial South African director Yaël Barber has chosen to revive it in the confines of London’s most adventurous small theatre, the Donmar Warehouse, where it feels right to say that this least homely of dramas has found its home. It’s essentially a chamber piece with three characters, in which the drama unfolds inexorably over 90 minutes. The two men, a ploughman, who is known as Pony William, and Gilbert Horn, a miller who lives on the outskirts of the village, are worlds apart in their demands on life. William is happy enough with his horses and his pretty young wife...

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