David Harrower's strange and poetic play was first staged at the Traverse theatre in Edinburgh in 1995, in a production which I saw and which made his reputation. After some less successful works, he went on to write the Olivier-winning play Blackbird. Knives in Hens has now been revived in the small dark cellar which is the Arcola 2. The production by Serdar Bilis isn't faultless but its strengths are much greater than its weaknesses, and the power of Harrower's dream-like language is as strong as ever. It's hard to sum up this 75-minute work without being reductive. A woman is caught between two men and moves from one to the other. One of them dies. It's set in an indeterminate rural place in an indeterminate century, some time back in the past when books and writing were rare, when peasants hated the millers who ground their corn and when everyone believed in God. The two men have names -- Pony William the ploughman and Gilbert Horn the miller -- but the young woman who is William's wife remains unnamed. Jodie McNee, who played Cordelia to David Calder's Lear at Shakespeare's Globe two years ago, and who is a graduate of Declan Donnellan's Cheek By Jowl company, is excellent as the young woman. What's it about? This is a hard play to sum up in a nutshell, because the gritty language takes on a life of its own and is more important than the detailed action. It's a play about ignorance and enlightenment, about prejudice and religion, about sex and superstition, about the physical toil of pre-industrial farm life, and about the links between words and things. In the opening moments William tells his wife she is 'like a field' but she doesn't understand; she knows what a field is but she cannot comprehend the concept of 'like'. When the miller shows her pen and paper and she starts writing, her mind enters another dimension which allows her to discover her own feelings and name the things around her. 'Every thing in my head is put there by God. Every name I had will take me closer to him.' Because of the cramped acting space there are some key moments which don't quite come off in this production, but I enjoyed its intensity. There are some vivid sounds of horses and grinding millstones and rain, and a cello accompanies the action throughout. Some critics didn't like the cello, but I did.