Sam Allen with permission for Varsity

Bloody Knees follows Cass (Maddy Sanderson), essentially a child who has somehow found herself in her mid-twenties with a History and Philosophy degree that seems more hindrance than advantage as she navigates the post-university world, from disheartening job searches to disappointing one-night stands. Meanwhile her flatmate and best friend, Georgie (Lara Ibrahim), is a suit-wearing corporate success, providing the perfect contrast to our couch-dwelling protagonist. The show walks the audience alongside Cass as she faces the reality of growing up, and all the hilarity and mistakes along the way. (I laughed so hard at points that I think I actually grew an ab during the performance.)

"The show walks the audience alongside Cass as she faces the reality of growing up, and all the hilarity and mistakes along the way"

Working with an intimate venue in Pembroke New Cellars, the lighting and stage set-up (thank you, Naomi Cray and Iona Boyer!) created a warm and casual environment that immediately welcomed the audience into the production, almost inviting them to be a part of it, an extension of the cast. This complemented the informal, sitcom genre of the play, aligning with its content and tone as a piece. The space was used to the full throughout the slick and self-aware performance, and one need only have glanced around the audience to see that they were having a blast, loving the whole experience and genuinely rooting for the characters on stage, particularly during the more awkward or tense scenes, such as the post-job interview dinner party that beginnings with running into an ex and ends with the fellow attendees being accidentally subjected to a photocopy of Cass’s boobs.

"I laughed so hard at points that I think I actually grew an ab during the performance"

If this play could be described as Sanderson’s ‘brain baby,’ then she should be a very proud parent indeed. The cast members, each in their own way, stood out as deeply impressive, offering consistently memorable and convincing performances. Joseph Wolffe, during his short bursts on stage, was an invaluable addition, with his deadpan wit, unexpected yet somehow appropriate in the role of merry drug-dealer, Sparks, whose company is seeking to diversify their business endeavours. Sanderson in particular displayed remarkable stamina, and her portrayal of Cass (both on the stage and the page, as writer and director) was unwaveringly relatable and entertaining. She demonstrated her versatility as an actress in switching seamlessly between stream-of-consciousness-style, fourth-wall-breaking monologues that had the whole room cracking up, to creating genuinely poignant moments with her stellar castmate, Ibrahim, who played the more serious role of Georgie (a rare example of an employed humanities student, offering hope to many) flawlessly and formed the backbone of the play.

There were recognisable and nostalgic moments for any student or soon-to-be graduate scattered throughout the performance, and a laugh was always just around the corner. This was ensured by the refreshing honesty of the (at times Miranda Hart-like) protagonist, who expressed things that we have all thought before at some point or another, or that our subconscious has picked up on and not quite put into words yet. Cass does that work for us. This observational humour permeates the script, meaning every third line was comedy gold. I couldn’t help but laugh, especially when one of the characters disclosed their gran’s death by saying: “she’s snorting lines in the sky now.”

"Every third line was comedy gold"

The stage presence of Charles Wolrige Gordon alone (who played both a whiny child prodigy and eccentric corporate CEO) had this effect. His appearances on stage had everyone, sometimes even the cast, in stitches so severe that I feared a trip to Addenbrookes would be required. Wolrige Gordon’s performance reeked of charisma and an infectious confidence, contributing to one of the play’s most memorable and entertaining scenes, in which he and Lauren Cleaver (who provided an excellent impression of a frightfully middle-class mother) played demanding customers in a busy restaurant whom Cass convinces to sit outside by the bins for a truly avant-garde, authentic ‘eating out’ experience. This description does not remotely do it justice – this scene was absolutely hysterical – so you will just have to go and watch it for yourselves.


Mountain View

Eureka! provides more questions than answers

From its exploration of love found in a smoking area (featuring a beautifully executed Tonbridge-boy-turned-gangster impression from Jaeyen Lian, who I could see going far based off his versatile and smoothly-delivered performance) to the frustrations of friendship, Bloody Knees isa heart-warming and frankly hilarious take on a familiar story: that of growing up. Congratulations to the entire cast and production team for what was a truly brilliant performance. I look forward to seeing many of you on bigger stages in the future!

Bloody Knees is showing at Pembroke New Cellars until Saturday 9th of March 2024. It’s a tiny venue, so book your tickets now before it sells out, as it’s sure to do.