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Knack


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A: Ann Jellicoe Pf: 1961, Cambridge, England Pb: 1962; rev. 1964 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Rented house in Tottenham, London, c.1960 C: 3m, 1fTom, Colin, and Tolen, three young men who have rented a house in north London, are now inexpertly attempting to decorate it. Tolen, a flashy motorcycle-riding individual, is head of the pecking order, so does not help with the work, but impresses the others with boasting about his ‘knack’ for sexual conquests. Tom, a voluble schoolteacher, has persuaded Colin, the lowest in the pecking order, in whose name the house is rented, to help him decorate Tom's room, which now contains nothing but a ladder, a couple of chairs, and a bed. When Nancy Jones, a young new arrival in London, knocks on the window to ask for directions to the YWCA, Tolen invites her in, and then tries to demonstrate his knack in seduction for the benefit of the others. In the event, Nancy feels so terrorized by Tolen's advances that she falls into a faint. When she recovers, she accuses the men of having raped her. Tolen dismisses this as a sexual fantasy, which Tom objects to, but both men are visibly frightened of the potential consequences. However, Colin sees this as his opportunity to prove that ‘he is a man’ and so confesses to raping her. Tolen, eager to show Colin's claim to be false and to give Nancy what he believes she is craving for, begins to force himself on her. Colin leaps to her defence, and Nancy goes to Colin.

A: Ann Jellicoe Pf: 1961, Cambridge, England Pb: 1962; rev. 1964 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Rented house in Tottenham, London, c.1960 C: 3m, 1f

The Knack was ground-breaking in offering for the first time a woman's analysis of sexual games. Jellicoe brilliantly and amusingly uncovers the pathetic manoeuvrings of young males (what would now be called ‘laddism’), the homoerotic element underlying this bravado, and the inept way in which they attempt to develop the ‘knack’. Today, however, it is unthinkable that a woman writer would depict a woman making a false claim of rape and then submitting to Colin's newly discovered machismo.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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