The Greatest Wealth: Boo at the Old Vic Online
Boo, a 15-minute monologue, tells the story of a young deaf woman living in the 1940s. Raw, punchy and honest, the show is a testament to how you can truly be drawn into a character despite spending only a few minutes with them. Whether she is complaining about her mother, teasing the boy who fancies her or debating whether or not to argue with the doctor, there is something really warm about the character – something that pulls you in.
The monologue is performed on stage by Sophie Stone, accompanied by a voice-over which helps bring the audience into her world. Throughout the performance, the character uses sign language. Stone is a talented and endearing actress who commands your attention from the outset. It is deeply refreshing to see such representation on stage; especially as her deafness is not presented as her only defining characteristic – a pitfall we often fall into when trying to bring new voices to the theatre. Funny, bright and kind, she is much more than her psychical impairment. As the monologue proceeds, we learn that thanks to the NHS, she may be eligible to receive hearing aids – though she is unsure if she even wants them. Here, writer Jack Thorne is able to tell a compelling story in just 15 minutes, a feat which is difficult to achieve with such clarity and openness.
Boo is the first in a series of monologues entitled The Greatest Wealth: In Celebration of the NHS, curated by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Adrian Lester – with each piece focusing on a different decade. Boo begins the process, starting with the 1940s (The NHS was founded in 1948). First performed in 2018 at the Old Vic, the works were compiled to help celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service. However, with theatre making the move to a digital format in light of the current situation, they have found new life online. Two years later, it would be fair to argue that the monologues are more relevant, more timely and more heart-wrenching than ever.