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Knock Yourself Out, The Courtyard

Tom H C Holloway

Directed by Becky Catlin
★★★
Pros: The characters are very well developed and observed. Some strong dialogue and dynamic action on stage and the scenes where time is passing are clever and well performed. Credible acting gives this performance a little sparkle.
Cons: The plot isn’t strong enough to sustain interest throughout. It feels more like an illustration than a story and the writing could focus more on the audience and what they take away.
Our Verdict: There is a lot of potential here, with some good characters and strong prose. I found it a little self-indulgent though, as the characters did not evoke any empathy. That being said, I can see its appeal to a more youthful audience.
Courtesy of Colonel Productions
I should begin by stating that as one of the older reviewers in the Everything Theatre team, my view on this play may be influenced by my ‘maternal’ nature. Knock Yourself Out is an illustrative portrait of the life of a disenfranchised university graduate, Roger (Tom HC Holloway) a man whose first class degree has left him unemployed and debauched. His two housemates Jono (Joe Sowerbutts) and Billy (Paul Tinto) are also struggling with their coming of age for different reasons – relationships, sexual orientation and unrealisable aspirations leave them tortured and confused. They drink, do cocaine, fight, party, drink and fight some more. That is essentially the plot.
There just isn’t enough in this play for the audience. There is no real story, no direction, no climax, no tragedy, no real plot to mention. Perhaps this is intentional, as the essence of the message is that these graduates have no structure in their lives and no future. I just feel it is a little self-indulgent, the drinking, drugs and sex seem a little pointless and insular, not really reaching out to the audience for recognition or empathy. The action is a concentrated elucidation of how directionless twenty-somethings might live and this is not enough to sustain interest over the length of the play. Perhaps this would appeal to a younger audience as I felt no empathy for the characters, and in truth I found the air of self-pitying decadence a little irritating, perhaps because of the generation difference between myself and the protagonists.
My fogey feelings aside, there is some excellent character writing here and whilst I didn’t empathise with them they were certainly credible and very well portrayed. I really enjoyed the central character, Roger, as he is full of grandiloquent, yet intelligent observation and his back story, whilst a little far-fetched, lends depth to his audacity. Roger’s hedonistic abandonment is reminiscent of Wilde’s Dorian Gray and Holloway plays this character with ingenuous zeal and consistency. Juxtaposed to this, we meet Billy, outwardly comfortable in his own skin, yet riddled with OCD traits and insecurities about his sexuality and his family. Paul Tinto portrays this disparate character with brutish sensitivity. Adding another dimension, Jono, is artistic and soft-hearted, smitten with a girl who is ruining his chances of success with indecisive commitment. Joe Sowerbutts’ performance is believable and authentic. The supporting characters are less impressive and come across a little stereotypical, as though Holloway needs to ensure all the facets of life at that age are covered. The connection between the wannabe pop star Nicola (Lucy Telleck) and Roger is the nearest this production gets to a plot and with some editing and development could provide a worthy storyline.
The dialogue between the characters is colourful and has plenty of dynamic which is great at keeping the pace lively. The stage direction is really very good, the fight scenes are well choreographed and executed, which is creditable in a small performance space. I think the slow motion scenes depicting the passing of time are fantastic and the cast’s timing in all aspects of the performance was excellent. There is so much potential in this production and I must congratulate Colonel Productions on their first show. If this is the beginning, I anticipate a bright future as it is a strong start from a talented troupe.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Knock Yourself Out runs at The Courtyard Hoxton until 24th March 2013.
Box Office: 0844 477 1000 or book online at http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/whatson/295/knock-yourself-out

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Everything Theatre
Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.