Tucked away at the top of the currently-under-construction Finborough Arms is the Finborough Theatre, a tiny traverse theatre with red velvet bench seating and an intimate atmosphere. The stage, outlined by a rectangular 3D wooden frame and LEDs, holds a loveseat, armchair, sideboard, lamp, and tool caddy. A window hangs at the end of the room. The simple set design is stunning. Soon, a blackout signals the beginning of the performance.
First onstage for two-hander Towards Evening are Robert Hands (Leonard) and Janette Foggo (Edie). Over the course of their 2am living room meeting Leonard and Edie navigate the pain of loneliness while balancing the fragility of a relationship stalled by too much absence. Throughout the act Foggo holds our hearts captive as Edie proclaiming, “I and thousands of other women care too much. We are stuffed with love,” a line that seems as relevant to audiences today as it was in 1973. Meanwhile, Hands pulls off the intricacy of acting alongside Leonard’s voiced over thoughts with ease. It feels appropriate at this point to commend the work of Knocking on the Walls’ technical team, specifically sound designer Hattie North. Ena Lamont Stewart’s honest script makes heavy use of voice over to communicate its characters thoughts and North has certainly stewarded this device well within her design. Furthermore, Stage and Production Manager Sophy Leys Johnston handles what must therefore be a great number of sound cues with a wonderful fluidity. As the events of Towards Evening draw to a close it is clear that it will be a tough act to follow.
But follow it they do. As the lights fall on Leonard and Edie the production’s full cast emerges for a meticulously choreographed scene change courtesy of director Finlay Glen. What could have been a moment of drag within an otherwise streamlined performance instead proves to ensnare and the audience watches attentively as the layers of Leonard and Edie’s world is peeled back to reveal the set for Walkies Time For a Black Poodle.
In this second act of the evening Joanne Gallagher shines as Ella Brown, a common Glaswegian girl rocketed to posh living by her husband’s success. Alone in his home, bitter and resentful, with a killer hangover, Ella searches desperately for comfort. And, when a spontaneous phone call with a friend from her old city home doesn’t suffice, she refocuses her energy on Maggie, the well-raised maid. Throughout the play Gallagher displays her skill with great vivacity as she swiftly jumps between Ella’s colloquialisms and mannerisms. While Janette Foggo, returning to the stage for the second time in the evening, delivers another convincing performance as Maggie, an initially unassuming individual with a shameful secret. As the social barriers between the two begin to crumble Lamont Stewart’s exploration of the effects of loneliness on the individual continue to enthrall.
And just when you think the Finborough’s tiny stage can have no more to give, Jasmine Hyde and Matt Littleson take to the floor for the whirlwind that is Lamont Stewart’s title piece, Knocking On The Wall. While Hyde stuns as manic Dorothy, a stranger even to herself, Littleson’s offbeat humour as young, inexperienced plumber Alec McLean grounds the act. Together the two navigate perhaps the most unfamiliar relationship of the show, bringing the audience to laughter in one moment and stealing our breath the next. Culminating in a heartbreaking jolt back to reality Knocking On The Wall truly deserves its return to the London stage.
Truthfully, this captivating evening from Director Finlay Glenn is a must see for theatre-goers citywide.
Written by: Ena Lamont Stewart
Directed by: Finlay Glen
Set and Costume Design by: Delyth Evans
Lighting Design by: Zoe Ritchie
Sound Design by: Hattie North
Executive Produced by: Michelle Dykstra
Produced by: Georgie Polhill for Dryad Theatre Limited in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Knocking On The Wall plays at Finborough Theatre until 25 November. Further information and bookings can be found here.