Year: 1973

Title of the play: Knots

Author: Devised by Edward Petherbridge from the book by R. D. Laing

Director: Edward Petherbridge

Others in the Cast: Caroline Blakiston, Paola Dionisotti, Sharon Duce, Robert Eddison, Robin Ellis, Tenniel Evans, Matthew Long, Ian McKellen, Juan Moreno, Sheila Reid

Company/Event: The Actors’ Company, Edinburgh International Festival

Theatre and location: Royal Lyceum Theatre

Other productions of the same play:  Shaw Theatre, London. 1974: Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York.
1975: A film of the same name.

Plot summary: A compilation based on R D Laing’s volume of poems of the same title. Actors from the British Actors Company arrive in a town to prepare for a performance. Their rehearsals for the spectacle they are preparing touch deeply on the emotional and psychological hang-ups the players have had, and one by one, these are unraveled. The events of the film are based on a book by the "anti-psychiatrist" R.D. Laing (who appears briefly), and the way they are worked out reveals something of his theories. - Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide. 

Peth’s role: Pipe; Comedian’s Stooge; ‘Pierrot’


Some years ago, R D Laing published a little book entitled Knots: A collection of very brief monologues, dialogues and descriptions - poems, perhaps, is what they really were - dealing mostly with the confused attempts of homo sapiens to use his (or her) reasoning powers to aid his (or her) inveterate search for self-esteem - or, it frequently seems in the case of both him and her, self-dis-esteem. According to Dr Laing, his knots may also be called "tangles, fankles, impasses, disjunctions, whirligogs, binds." (The usual prizes will be awarded for the best definition of a fankle). Here is a knot: 

Jill: You think I am stupid.

Jack: I don't think you are stupid. 

Jill: I must be stupid to think you think I'm stupid if you don't: or you must be lying. I am stupid every way: to think I'm stupid, if I am stupid to think I'm stupid, if I'm not stupid to think you think I'm stupid, if you don't. 

... Some of the knots are played quite straightforwardly; others are realized with the aid of juggling, tumbling, mime, tap and soft-shoe dancing, custard-pie comedy (lovely!) and various varieties of song. ... 

...A lot of its success, I think, has to do with the attitude of the performers. All 11 of them are remarkably relaxed up there: never rushing, never pushing, always confident but never arrogant, always at ease but never self-indulgent. It is all much lower-keyed than our show-business style (which tends to grit its teeth and mutter "I'm going to entertain you if it kills both of us!"), and how pleasant it is, just for a change, to be carried along without being bowled over. 

By Julius Novick,

The Village Voice - 7 Feb 1974 

The company offered a new dramatization by Edward Petherbridge of ideas from the book of the psychiatrist who was quite popular at the time. Using sketches, songs, mimes, jokes and plenty of repetition, the piece explored human hangups and the “knots” people make for themselves. - American Theatre, A Chronicle Of Comedy And Drama.  

Production details:

Related links:

Review of the 1975 film from Time Out Film Guide.
It centres on a series of classic double-bind situations which are personified by individual members of the Actors Company, and revealed by way of dialogue that consists entirely of a series of riddle-like verbal 'knots': 'You can't bear that I'm not interested in you being interested in me', or 'I'm afraid of the self that's afraid of the self that's afraid of the self'.  Time Out Film Guide

Gallery:  Photo here:

Screenshots of an extract from the movie on Youtube and another one here

Another Knots video here

Original pic here 

Original pic here

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