Knocking on the Wall ★★★★ Finborough Theatre | Oct 31 - Nov 25, 2023

Henry David Thoreau wrote that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and these three short plays by Ena Lamont Stewart provide a graphic reflection of Thoreau's incisive aphorism. The revival of the three works by Scotland's preeminent female playwright is an opportunity to appreciate both some beautifully etched characterisations and powerful insights into isolation and the challenges of human connection. The first play, "Towards Evening," presents the fraught relationship of an elderly brother and sister who have decided to live together in their later years. Their mutual incomprehension as they strive to overcome the barriers of their upbringing, the imposition of gender roles and differing educational backgrounds are brilliantly rendered by Robert Hands and Janette Foggo. They capture all the nuances of the siblings' tentative reaching out for emotional support across the barrier of the years and their secrets. The second play "Walkies Time for a Black Poodle" again deals with boundaries and loneliness, but in this case it is class that divides and alienates the two characters. Joanne Gallagher puts in a terrific performance as the unhappy young woman who has been ripped away from her world and been thrust into a milieu that is foreign to her, but the play itself lacks some of the subtlety of "Towards Evening." The title play, "Knocking on the Wall," again deals with disconnection and emotional isolation. In this case, a young woman who has suffered a nervous breakdown is cut off from the world by her own anxiety. Jasmine Hyde puts in a positively riveting performance which distils all her character's pain and loneliness. This is a part which would have been easy to overplay, but Hyde is totally convincing. Kudos also to Matt Littleson who does a fine turn as a dim, but well-meaning, plumber's apprentice who is faced with a situation that is beyond his knowledge to fix. The work of Ena Lamont Stewart deserves to be seen more often, particularly when it is interpreted at this high standard.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Craig Fuller

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