Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Harris is a simple woodcutter who enjoys the little pleasures in life: snapping his braces in the morning, knocking back a steaming hot cup of coffee to start the day, whittling intricate faces into chunks of timber. Pepper, meanwhile, is similarly inspired by nature; she whiles away her hours cataloguing the various plants that thrive in the woodland surrounding Harris’ home. The two of them float along in relative contentment, oblivious of the other’s existence… until they’re not.

At first glance, Knock Knock appears to be nothing more than a charming but unchallenging retelling of the oldest story in the book: boy meets girl. But as well as overcoming their mutual shyness to forge a bond and find happiness together, this newly-enamoured couple will have to surmount other obstacles as well; it appears that even here, in the midst of apparent bucolic bliss, societal expectations will force them to conform or be forever conflicted.

With their oversize noses and exaggerated gestures, Jo Sargeant and Clare-Louise English are immediately disarming and endearing. The excellent choreography is matched by impeccable lighting and music, creating a visual and aural smorgasbord guaranteed to delight. Both performers are accomplished clowns; even just the raise of an eyebrow or the bend of a limb is enough to communicate their intentions and elicit a laugh without even a whisper. As such, it’s a universally accessible performance that will enchant d/Deaf and hearing audiences alike – a lamentable rarity at the Fringe. It also appeals to all ages, itself an impressive feat.

The stage design is worthy of note as well. In keeping with the fairy-tale feel, the modest charms of Harris’ home are complemented by the verdant vegetation outside, resulting in an overall effect that feels cosy and arcadian all at once. It’s all the more surprising, then, when the rug is pulled from under our feet and what seemed a simplistic story is given deeper meaning and some emotional heft to accompany it. Both uplifting and heart-breaking, this is enchanting stuff from Hot Coals Theatre.