Writer: Ella Hickson
Director: Robert Icke
Reviewer: Marina Spark
The Nuffield, Southampton is host to ‘Boys’ by Ella Hickson for the next few days. The play focuses on the social, emotional and financial plight of young Britons leaving the comfort blanket of education and responsibility free living. Hickson has written a play that grabs current issues by the horns, tackling controversy head on in a no holds barred critique of 21st Century Britain.
The stage was transformed into what can only be described as the perfect representation of a student kitchen. Anyone that has lived in a student house, where partying and socialising is at the very least as important as the course being studied/ job being doing, will identify with the haphazard treatment and lack of respect shown to that space by the characters. Items ranging from traffic cones to fluorescent wigs adorned the kitchen and a pile of rubbish steadily grew in the corner of the room until it threatened to drown the characters. Of course, the rubbish is a metaphor for the growing problems that the characters fail to address; in personal and societal terms.
A tragic incident from their recent past provides the main underlying tension and drives all the characters to follow their own path onwards from it. Benny, played engagingly by Danny Kirrane, struggles the most to come to terms with the tragic event, with unanswered questions playing heavily on his mind. The relationships between the characters are fully reflective of many groups of University friends and are suitably messy and confused; the sexual tension and frayed relationships remaining taught throughout. The performances were strong, with all the actors giving well rounded, truthful performances.
Robert Icke’s direction made the play whole heartedly attention grabbing. Through his direction the script was transformed into a raw, rough and ready representation of what it means to be a young, disillusioned Brit. The tangible energy on the stage made the crescendo of action in act two truly shocking; proving that Robert Icke is capable of providing visionary yet grounded direction.
My only criticism is that the plot line is a little predictable and the issues tackled are given a broad brush approach, with a one size fits all commentary on the most pressing current issues of this generation. Although topics such as the recession, the 2011 riots and drug culture are pertinent there is a saturation in current theatre and unfortunately there was nothing revolutionary in their use here. That is not to say that this is not a very good piece of theatre. You can expect a fine evening of entertainment with excellent direction and performances; just don’t expect to hear anything you haven’t heard before.
Runs until 25th May 2012 at The Nuffield, Southampton.