The Knowledge – Charing Cross Theatre until 11th November
Review by Lani Calvert
The Knowledge, a new stage-adaptation of Jack Rosenthal’s 1979 film, tells the story of the seemingly impossible test required to become a taxi driver. The show transports us back to London in the late 1970’s, a world of flares, sexist jokes, and worst of all, no SatNavs, as the characters endeavour to memorize every street within a 6-mile radius of the Charing Cross Theatre.
Focusing on three men and their wives/girlfriends, it shows the dedication (from the partners as much as the men themselves) it takes to memorize every route, every point of interest. The characters were very well-developed, each an individual, and their relationships realistic and relatable. This made the show instantly likeable. The pathetic but loveable Chris was played wonderfully by Fabien Frankel, and was partnered by Alice Felgate as a bossy but well-meaning Janet, who I felt could have added a little more light and dark to her role. Jenna Augen and Ben Caplan bustled round the stage in a completely different sort of partnership, and won us over as Val and Ted. An outstanding mention should be given to Steven Pacey as Mr. Burgess, whose humour had the audience laughing out loud and drove the pace of the first act.
Maureen Lipman’s thoughtful direction of her late husbands work, used the space and set well, to weave the characters’ stories together. Whilst the stage may sometimes be at a disadvantage to screen as it does not have the luxury of jump-cuts, Lipman managed to smoothly segue in short humorous scenes, demonstrating a strong adaptation of a film script. However, at times it seemed that there was a little too much direction, with the characters movements distracting from what they were saying. After a quick paced first act which was fuelled by comedy, the show lost momentum in the second act as the tone became more serious. Whilst I still rooted for the characters to pass the knowledge, I could not help but feel that the pace had begun to drag.
It is credit to the writer, Jack Rosenthal, that this piece is still relatable today. He wrote truthful characters which make you respect the black cabbies that keep our city of London on the move. The show will run at the Charing Cross Theatre until 11th November, and whilst it may not blow you away, it is bound to make you laugh.