Two men stand on a street corner. One remarks that the other looks nice. The other replies that that’s not what he’s looking for. They return home and sleep together. Afterwards, they discuss other men and how similar they actually are and how well one knows the other.
This new writing by Sam Moore is described by directors Rosie Richards and Georgia Reddington as Pinteresque, postmodern, and about “stigma, repression, mental health, and intimacy”. We see characters who are intimate with and share experiences with each other, but in other ways are detached. As an audience, we may watch characters having sex and experiencing panic attacks, but we don’t seem to know their real names.
The writing is clever. In the scenes I saw, the words “I know you” were said, questioned, and disbelieved many times, with different contexts and meanings each time, and were used as a motif to help the audience track the ways the characters reflected on themselves and each other. But will we ever really know them? This, and the things that are left unsaid, raise just some of the questions we are meant to think about.
There were apprehensions from the cast about taking on roles so different to what they are used to, with backgrounds in musical theatre, and a lack of experience playing older characters. However, Sammy Breen (Kid), Benjamin Ashton (John) , and Joshua Cathcart (Pumpkin) all embody the characters—the young sex worker with depression, the reserved older man, the ex who keeps coming back—really well. A week of characterisation workshops, the freedom to adapt and develop the script on their own and with Moore, the ability to put in as much of their own personality as they wished, and the challenge to not put too much of themselves into the play, have worked well to bring these characters to life.
Cathcart calls the play “voyeuristic”; I would totally agree. It sometimes feels too intimate to watch. Not because of the sexual content, but because we see the characters in their everyday lives, including at their most vulnerable. The set represents both the street corner and the bedroom, emphasising both the public and private in the play. The depiction of mental illness, both the character experiencing it but even more so the reaction from outsiders, is astonishingly realistic. The cast and crew have developed a piece of theatre that feels incredibly close and genuine. I Know You definitely has my recommendation.