Search

The Knowledge, Charing Cross Theatre, review: ‘Gentleness in the humour, the dialogue is funny but never cruel’

PUBLISHED: 16:01 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:28 15 September 2017

The Knowledge Steven Pacey and Louise Callaghan. Picture: Scott Rylander

The Knowledge Steven Pacey and Louise Callaghan. Picture: Scott Rylander

Copyright © Scott Rylander 2017

A 1979 television comedy-drama about a group of people trying to pass The Knowledge has been adapted for the stage by Simon Block, and is directed by Maureen Lipman

The Knowledge James Alexandrou and Celin Abrahams. Picture: Scott Rylander The Knowledge James Alexandrou and Celin Abrahams. Picture: Scott Rylander

Black cab drivers are astonishing people and driving skills are the least of their talents. They carry in their heads detailed knowledge of every street in London, daily adding new information about diversions, one-way streets and changes, temporary or permanent. In addition, they need to understand and tolerate their passengers, drunk or sober. However do they do it? No wonder they have developed brains in which the hippocampus is much larger than normal.

Back in 1979, Jack Rosenthal wrote a television comedy-drama about a group of people trying to pass The Knowledge. It’s now been adapted for the stage by Simon Block, who has retained much of the original – very funny – dialogue and characters, and directed in spirited fashion by Rosenthal’s widow Maureen Lipman.

TV drama tends to call for rapid scene-changes, which can be confusing in the theatre, but Nicholai Hart-Hanson’s composite set, geometrical and brightly-coloured,rather like a Mondrian painting, solves this problem ingeniously. Combined with lighting by Leigh Porter, it offers an ever-changing backdrop for entertaining and moving performances by a talented cast.

On opening night. the authenticity and entertainment value of Rosenthal’s piece was confirmed by the enthusiastic appreciation of numerous cab drivers.

Although still largely relevant today the individual and social attitudes are firmly grounded in 1979. There is gentleness in the humour, rare in our harsher age, and the dialogue is funny but never cruel. Of central importance is the eccentric, merciless and occasionally comic Mr Burgess, the all-powerful examiner. Played by Steven Pacey, he makes this larger-than-life character credible, even vulnerable.

The lives and attitudes of the applicants, and their partners, are each altered by the experience of gaining The Knowledge. Only two achieve the coveted green badge: Chris, the young, unmotivated dropout who becomes positive, even ambitious, is convincingly played by Fabian Frankel, and the only woman, Miss Staveley (Louise Callaghan), who gains the independence she so desires.

A question remains that this period piece cannot address, what is the future for black cabs? London has never been more congested, polluted, or impossible to navigate. As to the threats imposed by Uber, sat nav and diesel fumes, who can say?

4/5 stars

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

The O’s director of football has had two bouts of depression in the past, but is enjoying life at Brisbane Road and will be there on Sunday

The 17-year-old caught the eye for Heybridge Swifts and Leatherhead last season and has agreed a two-year contract with O’s

13:00

London Lions saw their hopes of landing the BBL play-off Championship title shattered by Leicester Riders at the O2 Arena on Sunday.

36 minutes ago

For the past year, passing through the London Overground station at Hackney Wick has felt like walking through a construction site.

A charity match in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and East Hertfordshire Mind Network is taking place at Brisbane Road on Sunday

A Hackney drug dealer’s remarkable journey out of crime and conversion to Islam has been documented in a pair of films.

08:49

Royal London One-Day Cup, South Group: Glamorgan (302-9) lose to Middlesex (304-6) by two runs

Heroin and spice are being smuggled into the John Howard Centre in what is yet another security breach at Homerton’s medium secure unit.

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists