Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Blood Knot

Blood Knot tells the story of two half-brothers living in South Africa during the apartheid era; one brother is clearly dark-skinned while the other has much lighter skin and can pass as white. At the time of the first performance of the play in 1961 theatres in South Africa were racially segregated, and although Blood Knot made playwright Athol Fugard famous internationally it also made him quite unpopular with the State authorities at home.

Despite the acclaim it has received over the years, Blood Knot isn't the most dramatic of plays, and takes considerable time to introduce the characters and premise. Just as problematically, at times the script sacrifices the plausibility of the characters for the sake of exposition and metaphor.

Having said that, I enjoyed Blood Knot. Although the play starts slowly it gathers pace as it progresses. Both characters are well acted - Kolade Agboke's portrayal of Zach in the second act is just so damn likeable. It's also nice to see actors respond sensibly to the unexpected, so I was pleased to see that when a door didn't close properly and instead swung open, Morris (Keith Ward) closed it without missing a beat. Not all performers respond so well.

The most fascinating concept in the play is the dual nature of light-skinned Morris. Neither obviously black nor truly white, he has the potential to choose his own identity, and with it his place in society. He can choose resentment towards a system that discriminates against him; or he can choose to hide his true nature and so be treated with respect. It's to the play's credit that this is not presented as a simple, easy choice.

Although it starts a little slowly, overall Blood Knot is well-acted and enjoyable.

This production of Blood Knot in Project Arts Centre continues until Saturday 11th June. Tickets cost €18. The play runs for 2 hours 20 minutes including a 15 minute interval.

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