Review: Knock Knock

4 star rating
An endearing fairy story proves eminently relevant in terms of gender roles in a charming, well-paced and delightfully inventive work from Hot Coals Theatre at RADA festival.
Knock Knock

Image: RADA

Theatre: RADA

Closes here: Saturday 7 July 2018

Devised by Hot Coals Theatre

Caroline Parker MBE (clown director)


Jo Sargeant (Harris)

Clare-Louise English (Pepper)


Two hearts, one cottage and a book with all the 'answers' ...

A modern folk story for our times.

Once upon a time, tucked away in a small rickety cottage deep in the heart of the forest, a woodcutter goes about his life in a world of woodland magic.

When one day a stranger knocks at his door, bringing with her a most unexpected of spells …

But when the pressure of social expectation worms its way to the centre of their lives, bringing confusion to their hearts, a choice must be made: stay and conform, or run and be free - or is there another way?


Hot Coals Theatre returns with a fairytale of love and longing.

Expect to laugh and cry in this poignant and moving piece using physical theatre, clown and mask to capture the hearts of grownups and thinking families.

Knock Knock has been created to be completely inclusive to both Deaf and hearing audiences.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Saturday 30 June 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

When Jo Sargeant's Harris first appeared on stage sporting a rather lengthy beard, a very small and very young theatre-goer sitting just in front of me found the experience too much, promptly started crying and had to be taken out of the theatre for some motherly comfort.

Hopefully, her future outings to the theatre will be happier.

Even for fairly young children, though, this is not at all the scary experience that anecdote might suggest.

Cast of Knock Knock

Clare-Louise English as Pepper (left) and Jo Sargeant as Harris

Asked to describe the play in 3 words in a recent interview with Miro Magazine, the creators - Hot Coals Theatre - answered: "quietly, beautifully, moving".

I think I'd pretty-much go along with all those words for what turns out to be a kind of fairy story with more than a tinge of modern relevance.

At first, I wasn't sure whether Knock Knock is specifically aimed at children or adults, but as I found myself being drawn-in inexorably to the story and appealing characters, the question became almost irrelevant.

There are some adult concepts, but there's certainly enough to enthrall younger people and the theatre's age guidance says the show is suitable for all ages (with a recommendation of 9 years+).

There's no dialogue here which makes the play eminently and commendably 'd/Deaf and Hearing inclusive'.

However, it does have a continuous, music-based soundscape that I found to be a little gratingly repetitive in one early section where some loud piano chords endured a little too long.

They are counter-balanced, though, with later musical elements that are hauntingly beautiful, and overall, the sound design is highly effective and affecting.

Knock Knock is a kind of picture book brought to life with a lovingly created, delightful setting comprising a forest, dominated by a big, old, gnarled tree on one side of the stage, and a cute house on the other.

Harris is a woodcutter with a strangely flexible axe and lives alone in his house.

Pepper seems to scavenge the forest collecting samples of nature's produce.

When they become aware of each other, the inevitable happens and they fall in love.

Pepper moves in with Harris but quickly discovers that the bliss of romance is offset by expected wifely chores.

Given the plot, setting and characters, I expected rather more humour and some bigger laughs.

There is humour - and quite a bit of it - but it is fairly gentle and relatively understated.

That, though, is essentially the style of the piece which is, nonetheless, a wonderfully endearing, well-paced and delightfully inventive show.

Seductively captivating performances from Jo Sargeant and Clare-Louise English not only keep us totally absorbed for the duration, but effortlessly get us thinking about important social issues through a simple, highly effective tale.

Lovely stuff.

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