Taran Knight’s Our Kid was one of the highlights of the summer’s GM Fringe Festival. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for several awards, including Best New Writing, Best Actor, and Best Drama. Thankfully for those who missed it at the GM Fringe, Knight has returned to the King’s Arms, with a slightly extended version of his hard-hitting one man show about growing up in Salford.
Our Kid is a masterclass in storytelling. Knight’s one man show seems autobiographical, despite it being centred around a character called Jimmy and his brother, Tommie. Huge Manchester United fans, the brothers live with an abusive stepfather and become embroiled in selling drugs, gangs, and the criminal justice system. Our Kid is so intense, sincere, and painfully honest that it genuinely feels like watching someone’s life play out on stage. Knight creates a play that literally pulls no punches, depicting the brutal, perpetual nature of gang violence.
Rather than using a conventional narrative, Knight brilliantly uses significant events in Manchester United’s history as a time frame which spans decades. From Cantona, the Class of ’92, winning the treble, selling Cristiano Ronaldo, and buying Robin Van Persie. For people who don’t follow football, this could be confusing. But for United fans, it adds nostalgic reflection, as we remember the golden age of a football club who are currently only a few points above the relegation zone. Using this as a time narrative is inspired, the euphoric success of the football team sharply contrasting with the grim reality of Jimmy’s life.
As a one-man show, Taran Knight plays all the characters in the story, including the protagonist, Jimmy and his squeaky-voiced younger brother, Tommie, their unwavering mam, and humorous Irish grandmother. Knight’s incredible performance forges a tight-knit family, to whom the audience can relate, and who remain resolute in the face of hardship.
Knight displays an extraordinary versatility as a performer, not only rendering a multitude of believable characters, but also portraying an impressive depth of emotions. As a calm narrator, he is always engaging and compelling to watch. But his ability to fly into periods of intense anger and violence, before calmly returning to telling the story, is astonishing and quite frankly terrifying. To see someone passionately express extreme rage in a small fringe venue is frightening. Yet this is deftly juxtaposed with warm humour and beautiful moments of tenderness, as Jimmy falls in love with his girlfriend.
This constant shifting of emotions is deeply unnerving, yet utterly captivating. Knight captures a vast range of moods and characters, which is awe-inspiring. It is undoubtedly the best performance I have seen in a single-handed play, and he thoroughly deserves the countless accolades he received at the GM Fringe.
Our Kid demonstrates how insanely talented Taran Knight is as a writer and a performer. As a finalist of BBC’s New Voices competition, Knight is somebody to keep an eye on. An emerging artist with huge promise, I will certainly be watching his work again in the future.