The Try-Hards are that bunch of kids who always do their best at Sports Day although they haven’t much hope of winning anything, except a prize for taking part. But not this year; there are no consolation prizes and instead they all have to face their fears and battle it out for the Try-Hard Trophy.
The cast of seven each have a difficulty to overcome, from body image issues to a fear of heights, from dyspraxia to anxiety, so all are given what seems a basic task in other circumstances, but for each of them appears a near impossible goal. The winner will be the one who most successfully meets their challenge, while the real losers can take off their bib and opt out at any time. And they’re off, with the miserable deputy head and aggressive PE teacher offering suitably caustic commentary.
It is a frenetic exercise and outside of the three rounds of the competition, there appears to be little structure. We jump from contestant to contestant; advice is good, bad or indifferent; friends and family are supportive or dismissive; social media is a cheerleader or a bully. Each character has their ups and downs, and frankly it is hard to keep up with who is who, and how they are getting on. Perhaps this is like life itself, but within the show, it’s exhausting. The break for biscuits was very welcome (more shows should try this).
The play, like the Try-Hards themselves, has its heart in the right place. It is sweet and optimistic, if a little naive, and the advice to persevere but not give yourself a hard time, find supportive friends and celebrate your achievements is well-meaning and lovely. In actual fact there is so much advice and some of it is conflicting. In reality, life is a long old slog and we battle our demons the whole way, and yet, the cynic inside may still manage to find the conclusion joyously uplifting.