Boys at New Diorama Theatre
Boys is an upbeat exploration of manhood and the first full-length production by The PappyShow, an ensemble founded by Kane Husbands to encourage actors to express themselves through physical theatre. Devised by a group of enthusiastic performers, the production seeks to offer an insight into what it can mean to be a young man of colour living in London at this point in history.
The scenes do not compose a storyline but are rather brief explorations of experiences usually inherent to boyhood. From aggressive fights to intimate connections portrayed through sequences of dance-like movement, the diverse backgrounds of the characters are united by universal scenarios associated with growing up. One scene looks at discipline by merging different confrontational exchanges between sons and parents; in another section about endurance the boys engage in challenging exercises to see who gives up last.
There are certainly some heartwarming moments and comedy is sprinkled throughout. On the whole, however, the show does not seem to have evolved much from its initial state of a (well-executed) improvisation workshop. Some parts still feel underdeveloped and the often brusque scene-changes reinforce the feeling that the sections were devised in separate sessions and then patched together not-so-seamlessly. The advantage of its unripeness as a production is the fact that the actors’ drive is still raw, genuine and therefore powerful.
The stage is an empty playground that allows the boys the freedom to engage in all kinds of athletic feats. Clad in tracksuits and sporting popular designer brands, the young men run, jump, dance and share snippets of personal stories, opening up to each other and to the audience. They reveal their vulnerability and, just as they touch a deeper level of intimacy, something usually clicks and results in outbursts of anger or frustration.
The actors are very athletic and comfortable in connecting with the spectators, but what is most noteworthy beyond their performing skills is their obvious commitment to the project and the way it clearly helps them express such a wide spectrum of emotions. While the play itself remains too vague in terms of solid content, the authenticity of the boys’ joys and fears and the spirit of celebration and comradeship they communicate is what ultimately stays with the audience.
Photo: Courtesy of Borkowski Arts
Boys is at New Diorama Theatre from 27th November until 1st December 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.