Booby’s Bay at Finborough Theatre
Henry Darke’s first full-length play is rich with evocative topics: male relationships, grief, legacy, familial responsibility, public interest press stories and, somewhere on the perimeter, the housing crisis. On the Finborough’s modest stage, Booby’s Bay spills out into the wings and audience audaciously as it conjures up the eponymous Cornish cove.
Finborough Theatre is one of the foremost champions of new playwriting. It’s easy to see the draw of this script, which is plump with comedy, clever musings and wordplay (“Maybe I am a luna. But that’s better than being a boner. Going around fucking with people’s lives,” the protagonist seethes). But, despite ambitious direction from Chris White, the characters don’t always find their true translation onstage and intentions are occasionally murky.
Huck (Oliver Bennett) sees himself as a righteous hero, at one with the sea and land, while others see him as a self-righteous sponger. He gets lots of lovely, squeamish lines like, “I have read Germaine Greer. I’m like an Aborigine woman”. He meditates while angry in furious, frantic breaths. It takes a while to see who he is, though, as if this dichotomous character isn’t really being fully explored.
Daz (Bradley Taylor), Huck’s love rival, is the show stealer. From the moment he slopes onstage with his crotch thrust out and plucks a business card from his wetsuit, it’s difficult to look away. He begins as a caricature but some raw and desperate scenes in the final act make sense of the way he presents himself. The play’s greatest comic moments rely on the back-and-forth between the two male egos.
Mum Liz (Esther Coles) brings a brightening energy to Booby’s Bay. Jeanie (Florence Roberts) is played with warmth and fine voice yet seems little more than a device for stirring male competition. Journalist Ivan (Joseph Chance) starts out as an interesting character with some demons lurking but is reduced to an obsequious observer after that.
The (rather brave) decision to fry real fish onstage pays off. The smell of it, and the later aroma of candles burning, bring the seaside location and abandoned house into vivid relief. These effects will be all the more pervasive when the show ends its tour in a site-specific Cornish holiday home.
The issue of the housing crisis around which the play is centred is a little diluted, bookended by two impassioned pieces of speech but easy to forget in between. Instead, the sentiments that linger on after blackout are the loneliness of male identity and the dark irony of fate.
Photo: Blerim Racaj
Watch the trailer for Booby’s Bay here: