Boy review of Leo Butler's new play at the Almeida Theatre
I was bowled over and knocked sideways by Boy, a teeming portrait of London life that follows a skinny 17-young-old boy being blown over by life as we follow him across a single day, from benefits office to clap clinic, tube stations and bus stops to the self check-out at Sainsbury's and Sports Direct on Oxford Street.
It proves to be stunningly articulate about an inarticulate teenager. As he is buffeted, jostled, excluded and intimated on all sides, it speaks profoundly of London today. We recognise where he is; we will also recognise him. We may have passed him on the street on the way here. Will we have tried to pay his tube fare when he is caught trying to evade it? There are moments of troubling recognition where others try to connect with him. But mostly, his life is a blur — a smudge — in the corner of ours.
Director Sacha Wares and her designer Miriam Buether have created one of the most stunningly propulsive and inventive productions I've ever seen: it is literally constantly on the move, with the action all taking place on a moving travelator that courses its way around a traverse stage in a reconfigured Almeida Theatre. The travelator never stops moving, so scenes are brought in and off it with amazing fluidity throughout, from shops to corridors of front doors in a block of flats.
This is choreographed with minute precision, but it also feels organic; and the mostly young ensemble cast bring it to constantly alert life. At its centre there is an amazing performance from Frankie Fox, making his stage debut as Liam that is at once both vulnerable and inscrutable.
Sometimes chilling, always rigorous, and finally quietly overwhelming.
"There is compassion in the writing, as well as a vision of an unfeeling city going about its daily business."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"This is not a play that will send you home feeling good about yourself. On the contrary, its power to disturb is all the more troubling because it offers neither accusation nor redemption. You find yourself wondering about the morality of turning hopelessness into a beautifully crafted theatrical experience. But what would be a more virtuous alternative?"
Jane Schilling for The Telegraph
"It’s not a great piece of drama per se but director Sacha Wares and set designer Miriam Buether make it quietly magnificent."
Fiona Mountford for The Evening Standard
"Director Sacha Wares, designer Miriam Buether and movement director Liam Baugh have conjured magic and provided plenty to look at. The Almeida’s new production is the kind of thing to turn first-timers on to theatre for ever (especially at 75 minutes without interval)."
Fiona Hughes for The Radio Times