As young man, Aiden, prepares for a new chapter of his life to begin, Imran seems to be coming to the end of one. Confiding in the audience, the two men tell us about their current relationships, the trials they face and the obstacles they try to overcome. The themes of commitment, intimacy and even adultery are not new to us, of course; yet in The Knot writer and director Dan Daniel works hard to offer a fresh take on marital hardships.
With a stripped-back stage and minimal props, all focus is on the narratives created by Daniel. The two men explain how they have found themselves each with a choice about the state of their marriages, justifying their actions to the audience. Aiden (Caolán Dundon) and his Argentine partner, Camila, are faced with the laborious, tedious and frustrating task of proving their love to the Home Office’s Immigration and Visa division. Asked to provide evidence, Aiden questions how you are meant to prove that you are in love – what qualifies? What will happen if their love is deemed not worthy enough in the eyes of the law? The strain this puts on Aiden and Camila’s relationship is only exacerbated by the thousands of miles between them both, their phones being their only port of contact.
Elsewhere, call-centre regional manager, Imran, finds himself thinking back to how his relationship with his wife began after finding her in bed with another man. Scenes where actor Aiyaz Ahmed recreates early exchanges between the couple are relatable and endearing. Ahmed plays both Imran and Hardeep, his wife, and although there isn’t a strong distinction between the two, it fits with the conversational structure of the play.
Daniel has worked hard to make sure the two stories come together as naturally as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not until an hour into the production that the two protagonists meet, which is far too long and ends up being underwhelming.
There is also the matter of how much we are being told by our two protagonists. Exploring only the male’s perspective on the relationships, it is inevitable that their will be one-sidedness and bias towards the men’s positions in their relationships. What is disappointing, however – though perhaps all too real – is how unwilling the men are to accept their own responsibility for their relationships breaking down. Aiden’s loneliness, convincingly conveyed by Dundon, is undermined by his fixation with intimacy. Yes, masturbation exists, and couples may send nudes to one another when living long distance, yet his monologue is dominated by the couple’s sexual relationship rather than their emotional one. When Aiden reveals himself as a previous commitment-phobe, he still does not see himself as being in the wrong. Very little attention is given to how Aiden and Camila emotionally connected. So, if we were to act as the Home Office board deciding on whether the couple “proved” their commitment to one another, unfortunately the answer for many would be no. For Imran, on the other hand, we are given insight in to how his relationship with Hardeep blossomed; how in spite of their religion and family heritage, the two couldn’t help but want to be together. Yet, even Imran fails to see that he was neglecting his wife through his work, rudely dismissing her whenever she tried to communicate with him.
In spite of all this, Ahmed and Dondon have the audience’s sympathy and their attention. Daniel avoids unnecessary dramatics or unrealistic rom-com moments, and he does well to do so. An understated piece of theatre, The Knot has a strong narrative at its core and two actors who do Daniel’s work justice.