What We Know *

After watching Pamela Carter’s What We Know at the Traverse, I know several things.

  1. I spent a lot of the time playing a mental game in order to stay awake: coming up with different titles for the play.  Some examples include Why Am I Here, What’s Going On and Why Should I Care.
  2. I have not recently felt sorrier for a cast than I felt for the six actors here, all of whom do the best they can, some even managing palpable performances, with the drivel they have been given.  I also have to wonder whether they were clued in on what’s happening, because I sure don’t have much of an idea what some parts mean.
  3. I managed to see a performance with a sign language interpreter, and I felt that she gave a great performance that seemed more interesting than what was officially happening on stage.
  4. The most dramatic thing that happened during the performance did not come from an actor, the script or any production element but was in fact a guide dog that sat in the front row.  The play is set in a kitchen and has food prepared, cooked and consumed onstage.  The poor dog was so interested in the food that it spent the entire production eyeing and salivating over every morsel, to the point that its owner had to restrain it.  That dog’s reaction, and the uncertainty of what it would do next, gave the audience more drama than the play itself.
  5. I had recently read August Strindberg’s preface to his seminal naturalistic play Miss Julie where he accused theatre scripts of his time of being dead.  I found this play to be evidence that not much has changed for some scripts in 150 years.
  6. Carter’s dialogue attempts to capture the essence of what the naturalistic movement tried to do: show how people really acted and sounded like in private.  Unfortunately, every scene is less interesting and dramatic than any mundane conversation one would overhear on a bus or in a restaurant.
  7. Had I paid for my ticket, I would have been greatly tempted to walk out.
  8. After careful consideration, the best alternative title I could come up with was a quote from the Bill Murray film Scrooged: Boy Does That Suck!

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

What We Know plays at the Traverse until February 27th.


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