Boys

Tue 17th – Sat 21st October 2017

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 09:12 on 19th Oct 2017

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The stage is an absolute mess: empties strewn about, washing-up that looks as if it has been neglected for weeks, filled, knotted rubbish bags are forming groups in all the corners, there's someone asleep under the table. So far, so recognisable.

Boys is the story of four flatmates coming up against the end of their lease, and trying to decide whether the leave the flat - and their party-filled, last gasp of childhood - behind, or whether to have a crack at becoming adults.

There's a big change in tone between the first and second halves of this show, and you might find that you prefer the second half, so stick with it. Initially, the boys of the house, along with two girls who also spend a lot of time in the flat, throw all their energy into partying. They drink, they take drugs, they dance. But as the play goes on, bigger problems come to get them, and it becomes harder and harder for them to stay in the flat as the problems looming outside threaten to engulf them.

The cast of Boys all did a fantastic job and gave wonderful performances. In particular, Tom Taplin did an excellent job as Cam, a friendly violin prodigy suffering from crippling stage-fright, and Louis Norris as Mack grows on you over time, emerging as one of the most interesting, and even sympathetic, characters. The two actresses, Maya Yousif as the kind-hearted Laura and Jessica Murdoch as Sophie, also did a great job.

Set design (by Ciaran Walsh), too, was well done, with a wooden frame gesturing at the protective (or perhaps enclosing) walls around the characters, and evoking perfectly the chaos and grottiness of student life.

The performances were, without doubt, great, but one major flaw in Boys was the fact that, particularly in the first act, things often became very busy, to such a degree that it was sometimes difficult to tell what was going on. Of course, this was entirely appropriate in some of the wild-party sequences in the first half on the play. But having music as well as dialogue as well as a lot of movement meant that some of the dialogue was sadly lost. At some moments, the music was unquestionably too loud, and there were long stretches of dialogue which were unintelligible in the audience. This was a particular problem as there is a big revelation at the end of the first half, which sets the course the rest of the play will take, and this hugely important line risked being lost in the cacophony of the action onstage.

Boys was funny, serious, through-provoking, occasionally terribly sad. The party scenes might give you a hangover headache as you think back over your worst excesses. Wonderful performances shine through, but a touch more work on the balance in many scenes would have made this show really great.

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