Johnny McKnight’s name dominates the boards of Scottish theatre during the festive period, writing several pantomimes each year and starring in one of his own creations. When he’s not bopping along to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas, McKnight is a successful director and also one half of the duo behind Random Accomplice. Earlier this year, Random Accomplice’s Wendy Hoose met enthusiastic responses and a promise to return in September. Toss into the mix a massive Commonwealth project and McKnight’s first play for A Play, a Pie and a Pint and you’ll find that McKnight is truly in the running to be one of the busiest men in Scotland. A Perfect Stroke is a daring exploration of power and manipulation, posing the question: who is safe when events spiral out of control in a classroom environment?
Sixteen year old Tommy (Scott Reid) has an audition looming ahead and drama teacher Ms Stone (Anita Vettesse) has agreed to stay behind after school to help him prepare his Romeo monologue. When Tommy’s girlfriend Carly (Dani Heron) is thrown out of the classroom, things begin to crumble around Tommy and Ms Stone as the lines of acting and acceptable behaviour are blurred. Chaos ensues as a lively cat and mouse chase breaks out and the struggle for power truly begins.
McKnight’s writing takes the audience on a journey, swaying our sympathies from one character to the other. His script is laced with threads of comedy that flow seamlessly into a dark intensity, captivating audiences with moments of raw feelings and emotions. In a world where tricky classroom situations are depicted in terms of an aggressor and a victim, it’s almost impossible to decipher who was in the wrong: was Ms Stone’s intentions simply to help Tommy prepare for his audition? Had Tommy previously considered the nature of their private rehearsal? Was it wrong of Ms Stone to channel her inner Carly in order for Tommy to understand how he should approach the delivery of his monologue? Did Tommy misread Ms Stone’s actions? The innocence of both parties can be questioned as the characters find themselves trapped by each other and by the consequences that will face them on the other side of the closed classroom door.
The incredible Anita Vettesse delivers a powerful performance mixed with a gentle vulnerability, Scott Reid’s manipulative student gives a frightening insight into how easily an innocent action can be twisted into a life altering situation and Dani Heron’s fiery teen presents the dreaded modern day student in a flourish of one liners and bold statements.
A Perfect Stroke is a fascinating study of limitations and desires resulting in an intense and memorable hour of lunchtime theatre. Who will be victorious in this battle of wits? Find out at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 8-12 April.