A play about disillusioned graduates you say? Why, I am a disillusioned graduate, this play shall indeed be akin to watching my own life played out upon the stage! Half way into Colonel Productions' Knock Yourself Out, as the cast struggled to find a pound note of which to administer their coke snorting, my yearning to identify with the characters was wearing slightly thin.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Upon reading the press release, my overriding concern was that Knock Yourself Out would tread the dangerous ground between earnestness and self importance as it explored the “serious issues” facing today’s youth. Instead, The Courtyard greeted me with something funny and tender and clever all at the same time. The dialogue is so witty and natural and, crucially, authentic, particularly when shouted over the soundtrack of the Jeremy Kyle Show as us graduates often do.
Added to this are some fantastic performances. Writer Tom H C Holloway recreates Richard E Grant’s Withnail with aplomb and for me much of the humour is derived from the very funny notion of Withnail shacking up with some students after Paul McGann leaves and passing his toxic self destruction around as one would pass around wine glasses and toast to oblivion.
As a character piece, Knock Yourself Out deserves a great deal of praise and yet its fatal flaw is its key premise as a depiction of graduates surviving on mis-sold opportunity. If, as a graduate, you are expecting an evening in which to wallow in self pity as I do so often enjoy, this play is not for you. for everything about Knock Yourself Out, even its very title, suggests a destruction that is very much self inflicted. While each character is fascinating to watch, they are also very unlikeable. Selfish and infantile, their actions regarding the females of the species is particularly disturbing.
We are essentially watching a gang of far more elegant and witty Inbetweeners. Which is fine, but would you employ any of the Inbetweeners? No. Not even the brief case one. And so while Knock Yourself Out is brutal and honest, it refuses to allow us any sympathy for this “lost generation.”