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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Knock, Knock

Niv Petel

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: C Primo


Low Down

Knock, Knock celebrates the life, laughter, joy and love of a single mother, giving everything she can to raise her only son in a place where every child is duty-bound to become a soldier and every parent has an army uniform in the attic.


Knock, Knock is a triumph, by far the most moving and important show I have seen at the fringe this year. It is written and performed by Niv Petel and opens a window into what it is like to be parent to a child you know will go to war. It is based in part on experience and in part on stories Petel has heard and seen while living in Israel. Ilana, is a single mother in the Israeli Army. Her job is to knock on the door of families whose sons have been injured or lost in battle. Her husband has been killed in action and she is faced with bringing up their baby son. We see her son Elad as a baby when she tells him, “Maybe by the time you are eighteen, we won’t need an army.” But we all know this is a dream that will not happen. Petel brings many characters to life in this play through Ilana’s conversations with them and we actually see each person in the room although in reality there is only one: Niv Patel as Ilana.

Elad is an only child. Ilana must sign a release for him if he wants to go into the army when he is 18. She tells her son, ”It is important for you to make your own choices,” and he does. He goes to the front to fight. This play does not tell us tragedy is about to happen; it shows us. We feel Ilana’s determination to stay optimistic and to believe that her son, unlike his father, will return from the war. Yet she knows that now that he is an adult, he must carve out his own path in life.

Knock, Knock is based on a combination of Petel’s experience of growing up in Israel, his own relationship with his mother, articles he read in Israeli newspapers and his imagination. It has been a long while in developing. It began as part of his MA project as an acting student at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, two years ago. Petel decided to create a monodrama: a solo performance with just one character. It had a successful run at the Etcetera Theatre in London in 2016 and a special performance for the 30th Anniversary J-Fest in Leeds.

He says, “The heroine of Knock Knock, Ilana, started as a private joke between me and my best friend from Israel, Maia Levi, who is also the Artistic Advisor for KNOCK KNOCK. This character, a typical “Jewish Mother”, popped up into our conversations, humorously commenting, complaining, lecturing or just sharing her point of view of the world, which always revolved around raising her beloved only son.”

Petel accumulated the series of monlogues from these conversations that are now part of the piece we see at C Primo. Petel says the play‘s message developed organically as he wove the conversations Ilana has into the fabric of his monologue. “I think I can say that KNOCK, KNOCK is trying to tell us that behind every soldier, no matter what army he/she is fighting with, there is a parent. That the loss of a child is equally painful, no matter where the parents are from. “

However, it says far more than that. It shows us the tragedy and terrible loss that war causes by focusing on one mother and one child; one needless death; one irretrievable loss. Throughout the play, we hear the lullaby Ilana sings to her son that says “No, I’m not afraid of the dark…Come Mama,…come sit with me until I have grown.” And we realize that once Elad is grown, Ilana will lose him.

“There are a lot of ways to do a solo show, some of them involve portraying several characters.” says Petel. “I chose to portray only one character throughout the play, and to bring the other characters to life only by reacting to them. “

The result is a mesmerizing hour that makes a huge statement about the utter futility of the wars that proliferate all over the world. The heartbreak, the loss to humanity of lives that could give us so much….all this come to life in a beautiful heart-rendering performance of a mother and her only child.

If you see nothing else this fringe, make it a priority to see Knock, Knock written and performed exquisitely by Niv Petel. It will open your eyes to the world we have created and it will make you weep.