18 Pages

Nostalgia for the Consensus in Knuckle and Teeth ‘n’ Smiles

WithFinlay Donesky

In the Theatre Quarterly interview, David Hare calls Knuckle “an almost obscenely constructive play,” and states that the claim that capitalists such as Patrick Delafield “know” themselves to have been damaged morally is a “huge claim”. Hare may have anticipated the question with some anxiety, for one of the dominant themes of the play is that action is next to impossible, thus rendering inaction much more acceptable. Hare’s characterization of morality as all-powerful at one instant and then completely impotent in the next serves the contradictory terms of the consensus which depends on passive individuals upholding universal/national ideals. When Hare wrote Knuckle and Teeth ‘n’ Smiles in the early 1970s, the counter-cultural movement, if it could be called that, had moved into a much more realistic and militant phase. The real moral battle against capitalism in Knuckle has already been won. In some ways Teeth ‘n’ Smiles affirms the contradictory terms of the consensual experience more emphatically than Knuckle.