Meelia Marshall Lovsey
Reviewer for Actor Awareness
We have a new column in this months newsletter. I welcome Meelia onto the team as Actor Awareness official Theatre buff and reviewer. She has a kean eye for detail and this month she reviewed ‘Boy’ at the Almeida theatre.
‘Boy’ Almeida Theatre
- Written by Leo Butler
- Directed by Sacha Wares
As you enter the auditorium, the actors are already in character and busy at work on the stage which is made up of a rotating travellator. Everyone is too busy dealing with the stresses and tasks of their own lives to pay any attention to ‘Boy’. The play begins with him walking into the doctor’s office, except half the audience haven’t noticed him and are still talking.
‘Boy’ actually called Liam is played brilliantly by Frankie Fox. Liam is an inarticulate, isolated and awkward 17 year old boy who doesn’t seem to really know anyone, or know how to get what he wants or needs. He speaks (and mumbles*) in a mixture of confused multi-cultural jargon and London slang, which makes it difficult to understand what he’s saying. It equally helps him blend in and avoid difficult conversations. Much of the story is Liam listening into other people’s conversations with a lack of ‘drawn out dramas’. Despite this, the audience still feels empathy for Liam as he eats someone’s thrown-out-left-over chips and gives his half sister a pack of Doritos which she’s saving for breakfast. Although we never meet Liam’s parents, he does mutter something about them being on ‘zero hour contracts’. It suddenly doesn’t seem as ‘clean-cut’ as blaming Liam’s situation on abusive parents or addicts, it’s just hard to make enough money and survive, especially in London. Maybe they’re just too busy working?
The strong cast which is made up of a large ensemble is refreshing. It’s not in every show that you see such a diverse spectrum of actors from all different ages and backgrounds. There is no better way to represent London accurately. This means we get to see the struggle of many other characters including people sleeping rough, disabled people who have had their benefits taken away, struggling parents and punished dole applicants. Essentially the future looks bleak for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money. This definitely isn’t a play that makes you feel particularly good or hopeful about the world, it’s scary to acknowledge that what is happening in this play is happening in our country and capital.
The unrelenting set which rotates round on a travellator is constantly being made up and then, almost instantly, picked apart. It transforms into different locations (anything from a park, to a street of houses to J.D Sports and so) as Liam walks aimlessly through the streets of London. The set is both clever and at times very distracting verging on irritating. It’s easy to get carried away watching the set being built in front of you and all together forget about Liam or ‘Boy’, which is who the audience have paid to watch. It is unclear whether this is something intentional or not, regardless when the show is finished one message is clear: ‘Boy’ is easily missed by anyone and everyone.
Though not quite as gripping, thrilling and heart breaking as Gary Owen’s production of ‘Iphigenia In Splott’ which is a furious call to arms, performed at The National Theatre earlier this year; this is still a worthy production. A great sense of empathy for Liam (and other’s) isolations and bleak futures was achieved. This play feels very current and necessary: things cannot continue as they are because the Liam’s of the world need our help- grab your ticket while you still can!
*A clear and appropriate character choice.