Entering Traverse 2 to see Pamela Carter’s play What We Know, was like passing invisibly through your neighbours' kitchen and witnessing their intimate universe of two. You were seeing them, but weren’t part of their world as Jo (Paul Thomas Hickey) and Lucy (Kate Dickie) move about chatting naturally but silently, having the occasional snog.
The cooking aromas, being created before our very eyes, reach us the way they do when you pass the doors of neighbouring flats. We are still excluded. Then, seamlessly, it’s lights down, voices up. We’re in.
We witness this thirty something couple’s shifting dynamics as they share the kitchen space listening to their favourite music in the background. Lucy ‘effs’, Jo searches his brain for the lost word which he finds to be "ineffable".
He is the cook, she is the bottle washer. There’s talk of space, hints of children, possibilities, where they are, where they’ve come from. It’s all normal. Till Jo disappears.
The utter bewilderment that Lucy experiences is palpable as she retraces her steps blindly trying to make sense of her strange new world. Other people come in to her world, odd disparate people. She feeds these people, entertains these angels in her confusion. But they’re not Jo and it is all surreal. She is lost, confused, and rudderless.
Carter’s play is a perfect metaphor for loss and for the disbelief and grief that ensues, whether it be death, as in Jo’s case, or the end of a relationship.
In a Sunday Times interview with Kate Dickie, Carter is quoted as saying that she wanted to capture when “...you wake up this morning and everything is different but still the same.” And that is precisely what she has done.
When Lucy finds herself offering food to her odd but supportive guests she says she is “...full of sadness...heavy with it...at the same time ...emptied out...”
Yet she carries on, bungles on, finds ways of coping and connecting. She is shown on the programme front navigating a new, foreign and difficult terrain alone and armed with only a wooden spoon as she tries to fill the gap he has left by doing what he did – cook.
Food is at the centre of the play. Food as the music of love. Love in the leaving of food for her since Jo died by Charlie (Anne Lacey), her philosophical, matter-of-fact neighbour who says, “fuel. that’s all. it’s such an effort to keep going ...in grief.” And loss is also at the core of the play starting with Jo’s losing words to Lucy losing him. She can’t retrieve him the way he retrieved his lost words but at the end, when the party’s over, Lucy tries to make sense of Jo’s words that she’d paid little heed to when he’d said them. Too late.
This is innovative, sensitive, entertaining theatre with a cast of good, weel kent Scottish actors along with the promising Lorn MacDonald that on the surface looks strange with its illogical happenings but in reality it is just like life – inexplicable yet amazing. No accident then, like so much of the text, that the play ends with Teenage Fanclub singing Verisimilitude:
I've got a pocketful of words in my brain
I pull something out when I think I should
I feel like I'm going insane
Show times: 19 -27 February 2010 8pm (not Mondays), matinees 24 and 27 Feb 2.30pm; Tuesday 23 February was sign language interpreted by Rosie Addis. Applause well deserved!