Once upon a time, a primary school friend of mine got in touch, via a popular social media site. He wanted to know if I wanted to carry on where we’d left off, and made dark if vague references to experiencing some Troubled Times in the intervening decades. My response was proportionate: I deleted the app and headed for the analogue hills.
Bored of Knives, the debut play from graduate company Flawstate, also features two old school friends interacting for the first time in years, but they can’t delete each other. Their meeting comes in the very physical space of their childhood den, littered with old VHS tapes and fairy lights to good, claustrophobic effect.
In this space littered with Fisher Price tape recorders, (pre-internet) sock puppets, and arcane rules, we are treated to a tense hour exploring female friendship, lies, expectations, and what it means to be a grown up.
Kitty Fox Davis and Megan Louise Wilson, the writer-performers, play nameless women in their mid twenties, who haven’t seen each other since some traumatic teenage event and betrayal.
Davis’ character is sweet, funny, open and forgiving; Wilson’s, furtive, restless, and prone to aggression. The latter is fleeing a scene of domestic abuse; the former seems never to have left this childhood safe space, either physically or mentally, despite her claims of having a job, a bedsit, and a hobby of picking up sexy Italian men in bars.
Neither are convincing liars, but this feels authentic. Friendship, particularly at school, is performance, and both Davis and Wilson play complicated humans pushing both towards and against the desire to behave like they used to. One enjoyable contrast here is between the easy, almost unthinking cruelties of childhood, and the grim, banal consequences and responsibilities of adult life.
There is humour here too, and moments of joy and understanding. Davis’ naïf gets most of the best lines, and also most of the physical comedy, as she is made to act out the flirting she has never really done and the blow jobs she has definitely never given.
The direction, by Tom Rider, is pacy but unobtrusive, and the production values are high enough to make you soon forget that you’re not in the theatre and are instead sitting in an old dressing gown, crucial for the magic of theatre to work in these livestream and video times.
By the end, we have learned surprising things about our two friends, and without wanting to give away massive spoilers, my mild criticism is that Wilson doesn’t fully convince with her character’s big reveal, whereas Davis – wide eyed, surrounded by the childhood detritus turned creepy memorial – is a believable hikikomori nostalgic for a time when everything was as easy to control as the toys within these four walls.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable hour, spent with two intelligent and compelling performers who clearly revel in exploring uncomfortable and complex characters and relationships.