Boy Parts at Soho Theatre
Boy Parts, a one woman show starring Aimée Kelly based on the 2020 novel by Eliza Clark, offers a female-focused American Psycho for the 2020s. Irena likes to take explicit photographs of average looking boys and men in her hometown of Newcastle, enjoying the power she wields over them. When given the opportunity to submit her work to a trendy art gallery in London, Irena finds a new muse in Eddie from Tesco. As fragments of her past begin to emerge, and Irena’s grip on reality gets more tenuous, the audience is pulled in distressing directions, never quite knowing what to believe.
A black screen with photography credits (eg The Boy with the Glass Eye, 2023) is displayed as the audience takes their seats. We don’t directly see much of Irena’s photography, but this is still a very visual show, with pink-fonted emails showing the exchanges between Irena and the curator, or neon images flashing like subliminals to highlight a point. Found footage (in a similar style to The Ring) plays during some of Irena’s darker monologues, showing a dark haired figure climbing a ladder in the attic and emerging with a box. The set design is modern and often sharply funny.
Boy Parts works incredibly well as a one-woman play because it means Irena completely controls the narrative: we only see what she wants us to see, and with no confirmation from any other characters, we are able to fully submerge in her increasingly scattered mental landscape. Her characterisation of the others is often hilarious and fundamentally mocking, with her dark quips giving insight into her narcissistic take on other people and how she can manipulate them.
Kelly does a wonderful job as the protagonist, lilting between seductive and unhinged, powerful and yet clearly hurt and reactive. Irena is not a heroine – she’s callous, conceited and violent, in refreshing (if harrowing) ways that we don’t often see in female leads. She subverts the male gaze, jumps on the wrong side of consent and enjoys wielding power over her subjects. Yet, even as we begin to see her as a villain, she also feels like a victim who is enacting revenge on men from the past and present. The play ultimately asks the same question she does: what does a woman have to do to be taken seriously? How far does she have to go to be seen as a threat? Boy Parts is shocking, uncomfortably funny and will live rent free in your mind for days.
Images: Joe Twigg
Boy Parts is at Soho Theatre from 20th October until 25th November 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.