a comedy by Ann Jellicoe 


Directed by Desmond O’Donovan 



The Cast


Tom………..Victor Henry

Colin….Timothy Carlton

Tolen………..John Castle

Nancy…...Barbara Ferris



Plays and Players  April 1966


Reviewer Simon Trussler


The Royal Court continues its look back in nostalgia to the nether “fifties” with a revival of The Knack:  and very satisfying it is too, after the rambling romanticism of Miss Jellicoe’s Shelley last autumn.  Admittedly, one must have certain reservations about a production policy which imbalances three revivals to two new works in the current repertory.  But there’s no gainsaying that this latest offering consolidates still further the most vital achievement of the new brooms at the Court—the creation of a strong and well-complemented ensemble from the original ad hoc and virtually starless handful of actors.


The discipline of the ensemble has a special value in this production—it sets the cast of four into a balanced relationship, instead of throwing the play out of focus by revolving it around the character of Nancy.  With Rita Tushingham in the part, Nancy became much more the central figure of the piece than the script suggests.  Don’t’ get me wrong:  on the evidence of Saved and Transcending, in particular, Barbara Ferris has a pretty assured future ahead of her.  But this is in part just because she can play less than extraordinary characters without making them elusive and off-beat.  Thus, she rightly makes Nancy the puzzled, lonely, fish-out-of-water northerner to whom things both frightening and exciting begin to happen—instead of the mysterious, self-possessed waif who is all too aware of her role as a sex-catalyst.


The three males are splendidly drawn, at once recognizable embodiments of opposing types, yet quite distinctively individuals.  Only John Castle as Tolen seems a mite too obvious.  Certainly he is the least imaginable of the three, the most superficially exaggerated—that symbol of sadistic virility who features rather less explicitly in pulp magazine stories by and for women.  On this sort of pseudo-naturalistic level, of course, the development of the plot is similarly hackneyed:  the old tale of the homely girl at first attracted by the sexy villain, but finally won by the shy young schoolmaster with a heart of gold.  Fortunately all is redeemed—and drained of cheap sentiment—in part by the sheer strength of the subtly heightened dialogue, in part by the two central characters, Tom and Colin, which this dialogue helps to create and contrast.



Return To Theatre Page


Part of the...

Created by T.Kronberg my website