Boy follows Liam, a NEET (not in education, employment or training) as he
drifts around London. Miriam Beuther’s high impact set conveys the pace of the
city with a conveyor belt circling the stage, deftly creating bus stops,
doorways and waiting rooms.
We follow Liam as
he meets classmates, drug dealers and policemen. His destination is Oxford
Street but nothing goes to plan.
The play doesn’t
have a clear narrative driving it forward – there’s a lot of wandering (and
wondering). But it feels urgent and maintains momentum. London vignettes
signpost the play; a crowded job centre, a crowded bus, a crowded city.
Wares skillfully balances those crowds. Liam is increasingly left onstage alone
for reflection. It’s at those moments, when the busy stage is emptied, that Boy interrogates the audience; whose
responsibility is Liam? What are you going to do about it?
young cast gives a rich cross-section of London’s diversity (still so
underrepresented on stage). And Frankie Fox,
playing Liam, makes an astounding professional stage debut. What is Liam
feeling? Apathetic? Angry? Sad? Fox’s performance suggests all three, all at
once. And it’s to Fox’s credit that the flashy staging doesn’t draw too much
focus the titular Boy.
When Liam reaches
his Promised Land, Sports Direct, the store’s letters are lit up like the
Hollywood sign. They spin around the stage and the audience feels as
overwhelmed as Liam. Smaller touches are nice too. The National Lottery’s
crossed-fingers icon is slapped on the bus stop, like a Bat signal for
of the dialogue is drowned out by the furore of the spinning set. But the very
confusion is an apt evocation of urbanity.
Occasionally, Boy’s direction and set design flatten
meaning. When Liam lifts his fingers to imitate the National Lottery sign, all
subtlety is lost. The conveyer belt
stretches thin too, particularly for a climactic scene set in Sainsbury’s where
the symbolism is big but not that clever.
But Butler’s script
mostly keeps the play on track. Every time Boy
leans too much into a Very Important Issue, he distracts us with a laugh; a
clueless party girl here, a disgruntled businessman there.
The play ends on
an unanswered question – though it asks many more of its audience. Butler
avoids definitive answers but Boy
adds an intriguing and urgent perspective to the conversation.
|What||Boy, Almeida Theatre review|
Almeida Street, Islington, London, N1 1TA | MAP
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
05 Apr 16 – 28 May 16, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £38|
|Website||Click here to book via Almeida Theatre website|