Theatre Review: The Knot Of The Heart at the Almeida

David Eldridge’s new play THE KNOT OF THE HEART reveals a dark underside to Islington life as a TV presenter sinks into heroin addiction. Disquieting and unsettling despite the laughs.

THE Knot Of The Heart wears its bloody organ on its sleeve from the start, setting its stall with a disturbing first scene in which a middle-class mother holds the foil from which her daughter smokes a heroin hit - quite literally enabling her habit.

Thus begins a harrowing play about heavy substance abuse, family jealousy and smothering maternal love set in our very own Islington.

Lucy’s heroin habit destroys her career as a kids’ television presenter and sends her crashing back into her mother’s Gibson Square home, to the uptight disapproval of her sister Angela.

When Lucy’s friend overdoses (“you know how he died, mummy”) she is desperate for drugs, but her money has been confiscated so she must prostitute herself to a man in Clissold Park. This is the final straw for mummy, who resolves to keep her 27-year-old baby locked in the house and bring her whatever narcotics she wants to keep her from the streets.

Margot Leicester is painfully funny as the mollycoddling mother, and Lisa Dillon plays Lucy with a tough bark that barely screens her wretched vulnerability. Abigail Cruttenden and Sophie Stanton also put in touching performances in this female heavy production, where the only unconvincing character is that of an aggressive drug dealer played by an unsure Kieran Bew. To be fair to Bew though, he plays five male parts in five different accents and does a very believable job of four of them.

For such a dark subject there are a lot of laughs, most of them arising from the incongruity of the mother’s situation – “My mother meets my dealer in a caf� on Upper Street… Sometimes buys him a cake”. But it would be misleading to call it a funny play, or even to say I enjoyed it - it is a disquieting, unsettling and heart-knotting ordeal.

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* Showing at the Almeida Theatre in Almeida Street, N1, until Saturday, April 30.