As the show begins, Alice (Hannah Khalique-Brown) is making a recording on her phone, talking about her favourite band. A short time later, Max (Ethan Moorhouse) and Hannah (Martha Watson Allpress) are two university friends driving to a wedding. This is a rather confusing start, as we simultaneously see and hear Alice making her recording and Hannah and Max chatting away during the drive. There is a disconnect for a moment as characters talk over each other, and we have to essentially choose who we listen to – a superb piece of meta-commentary by writer Flora Wilson Brown and director Harry Tennison.
For most of the play, Alice is simply speaking into her phone; a monologue. It starts off light and breezy, with a young teenager talking about a band she loves, the experience of seeing them live and meeting the lead singer. We soon understand she is recording this to send to a journalist as her story; her trauma.
Khalique-Brown is excellent in playing the youth and vulnerability of teenage Alice. She moves the story along exceptionally as she shows the shock, anger and sadness felt in re-evaluating her experiences at such a young age. She then shows Alice’s strength when talking about this, and in taking action by actively seeking to tell her story; to share it with the world. She excels especially in portraying Alice’s strength and determination to continue. I was extremely impressed with her performance throughout.
Max and Hannah banter during their drive. They chat about old times and how their lives have differed: he is a world-famous lead singer, and Hannah isn’t quite sure what is going on with her life. They argue about who is going to buy the coffees. Max becomes increasingly unsettled as he receives message after message, which he just attributes to work stresses until Hannah eventually reads his messages.
The character of Hannah brings plenty of substance for Allpress; more as the story unfolds and she becomes aware there is something wrong with Max, and then in her response when she finds and reads the story. Moorhouse also does good work as Max. We see from almost his first words shouted to a traffic warden that Max isn’t a nice guy, and then as he receives all these messages he is clearly more interested in protecting himself and his comfortable life than in even considering that he might have done wrong.
Tennison’s sensitive direction combines with impressive lighting by Ryan Day. There is subtle and hugely effective work, especially with the lights lowering to bring the audience even further into darkness as Alice speaks of her trauma.
Sad and uncomfortable more than once, but compelling throughout and with excellent performances, I Know I Know I Know was due to show at the sadly cancelled Vault Festival this year and I’m glad it was able to find a home at Southwark Playhouse. Definitely worth catching.
Writer: Flora Wilson Brown
Director: Harry Tennison
Set and Costume Designer: Victoria Maytom
Lighting Designer: Ryan Day
Sound Designer: Anna Short
Produced by: Emily Hunter Oulton and DONOTALIGHT
I Know I Know I Know plays at Southwark Playhouse until 16 April. Further information and bookings can be found here.