Mark Hil reviews Boys at The Lost Theatre
Boys tells the story of a group of millennials struggling to come to terms with their place in the world; complex relationships, uncertain futures (or lack thereof) and ultimately the suicide of a friend. The play revolves around main character, Benny (Alexander Bird), a high-performing yet anxious and sometimes frustratingly self-pitying twenty-something.
The set is well designed and will look familiar to anyone who spent their early 20’s drifting from one hangover or comedown to the next, though older viewers will inevitably be drawn to comparisons with the Young Ones. Amongst the chaos of rubbish bags and detritus is a stolen advertising board which reads “invest in the next generation” – well placed given the political context, if a little ham-fisted.
Throughout the play, I was unsure as to what the writer had intended to portray. Given suicide is by some measure the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, you would expect a little more mature handling of the topic. Instead, the audience is treated to a rather trite tour of issues fit to grace any episode of Hollyoaks – infidelity, unrequited love, excessive drug use, reluctance to grow-up. Needless to say, these issues have been covered with more depth and empathy elsewhere.
The play would be far more compelling had the writer, Ella Hickson, undertaken a more thorough exploration on the issues facing this generation – broken dreams, aborted hopes, futile expectations. Unfortunately, moments of profundity are scarce. The play doesn’t suffer from a lack of ideas; rather a surfeit of them. The script hops from mildly amusing puerile jokes to more cerebral discussions on the existence of god and moral relativism (think Inbetweeners meets L’Etranger). Indeed, the themes of early 20th century existentialist philosophy seemed to be scattered through the script as haphazardly as the rubbish on the stage.
I left the theatre confused and unfulfilled. By the final scene all seems to be forgiven as if there was a moment of catharsis I must have missed. Though the production was well acted and the stage impeccably executed, the play falls flat in its attempt to shoehorn diffuse issues into a coming of age drama narrative.
More information about The Lost Theatre and Boys can be found here