Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Two hearts, one cottage and a book with all the ‘answers’… A modern folk story for our times. Laugh out loud funny and sad, physical theatre at its best for audience of all ages.
Harris is a woodcutter and a homebody, enjoying the peace of his secluded woodland cottage, the ritual of his morning cuppa and the pleasures of whittling. Pepper a nature lover, happiest outdoors in all weathers, busily collecting leaves and flowers and keeping a journal of all her new discoveries. United by a love of trees but comically oblivious to each other’s presence in the wood it is not surprising that it is love at first sight; to us, the external observers, they have so much in common. But this is a modern fairy tale and although love (and a healthy dose of lust) will carry a relationship a long way, it needs communication and compromise too. Will Pepper (Clare-Louise English) and Harris (Jo Sargeant) get the happy ending they both desire?
Knock Knock is very funny and sad too. It reminded me of a Raymond Briggs story in its humour and likeable, all too human, characters with little quirks and grumbles. Like Brigg’s The Snowman this is a story told without words and suitable for all ages. In appearance it looks like a picture book come to life but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a kids show. Adults will appreciate the sophisticated exploration of a new relationship and although younger children might not engage so readily with the plot the enchanting set and lighting (Marine Le Houezec) along with the physical movement and laugh out loud clowning should keep even the most fidget-prone mite entertained. Each sound cue is matched with a lighting or visual cue on stage; the company do this to create a shared experience between d/Deaf and hearing audiences.
Both English and Sargeant are consummate physical performers and very expressive clowns, helped by wearing charming oversized noses. Two women playing these parts helps cut through what we think will be a heteronormative relationship and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that this is far from a ‘girl meets boy’ romcom.
The musical score could do with a bit more variation in tempo in the first 15 minutes, maybe a different tune as each character takes it in turn to introduce themselves to stop the soundscape getting a little soporific? I wondered about the choice of the folk classic She Walks Though the Fair as the one piece used with lyrics, it jarred in a performance created for both d/Deaf and hearing audiences. Changes in lighting to echo the soundscape could be even more dramatic, ensuring they can be seen from all over the auditorium.
There has been some frank discussion (reported in The Stage) between the Edinburgh Fringe and the company about the classification of the show in the Fringe programme as ‘hearing not needed’; a phrase that is ambiguous and the company argue, apart from being patronising, might deter some audiences from coming. This would be a shame as this is a highly recommended must see show at this year’s Fringe, and one of a handful which are accessible to d/Deaf people.