The Knitting Pattern Play by Deborah Nash

The Knitting Pattern Play – bringing knitting needles to London’s theatre scene

Taking place during the cataclysmic upheaval of the French Revolution, The Knitting Pattern Play by Deborah Nash uses knitting to explore universal themes of life, death and destiny.

5th September 2017

With performances on 19th and 20th November at London’s Theatre503, The Knitting Pattern Play is the deathbed reverie of Purl, an 18th century aristocrat who, during the French Revolution and while awaiting her execution, sees three women knitting at the guillotine.

Known as Les Tricoteuses, these knitting women are actually the Three Fates, mythical crafters of human destiny. Purl begs them to give her back her life pattern of leisure and privileges, and free her from the unravelled chaos in which she finds herself.

The play explores the idea of patterns that dictate our behaviour in life and how binding this can be. Deborah Nash developed the concept from a module for an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths where students were asked to adapt a non-performative text for the stage. Ultimately the playwright chose a chapter from her childhood needlework book on knitting.

“What particularly interested me was how instructions for learning to knit could acquire a completely different meaning when transposed to another context, so throughout there are pieces of text from this book, some like nuggets of concrete poetry:”

The set to this inventive play is designed by Saphia Barros and is being knitted by three students from Chelsea School of Art, with a wonderful bundle of yarns donated by Designer Yarns.

A knitted 'distressed' Tricolour flag will form the show’s backdrop. Each of the three colours is being knitted by a different student, using an assortment of techniques, both hand and machine knitted.

tricolour flag

The play also reflects current events, in the unravelling of establishment figures and concerns for a fairer, more equal society – which is echoed in Emily Harwood’s contemporary costumes and wigs.

The Knitting Pattern Play’s lively crowdfunding campaign has been supported by knitters and knitting groups alike, and has so far raised £2,200 to ensure the creative team are paid for their involvement in this exciting project. 

According to tradition, Les Tricoteuses sat knitting while unfortunate aristocrats were executed at the guillotine, and the play does include some very gory-looking knitted heads.

If you would like to get your very own pattern for one of these, simply pledge £10 here. The head patterns are written by Harriott Knuckles, who created the props for The Knitting Pattern Play in 2013

Curious to learn more? You can find The Knitting Pattern Play on Facebook here.

rehearsal pic

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