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The Boy on the Bridge

Gareth Pilkington
The Rose
(2011)

The Boy on the Bridge flyer image

The Boy on the Bridge's flawed dramatic politics carve out a play that seems as trivial as the subjects it toys with. It's a play that trades in theatrical extremes and crude counterparts, but never rests to delve deeper into its narratives. Under Dimitry Devdariani's direction, The Boy on the Bridge is guarded by a problematic naivety despite its candid moments.

Jonjo (Steven Clarke) is living under a disused bridge. Despite his nomadism, he's a wealthy young man who has chosen to live outside responsibility. He's tied to nothing until he meets Ziggy (Charlie Cussons), a young boy with severe learning difficulties fostered by child psychologist Linda (Anna Tarsh). With a troubled and violent home, Linda is unable to dedicate her time to Ziggy, so a strong relationship between the boy and Jonjo forms. Enter Malc (Bobby Hirst), Jonjo's travelling companion, and his girlfriend Kathy (Frankie Meredith) who bring trouble to this already bruised landscape of characters.

Yet the unfolding drama is packed with actions without consequence and fragmented narratives. In need of a heavy dose of adrenaline, it lacks potent emotional transactions between the characters and takes its time over meaningless actions. Malc disappears from the narrative in the second act with a heavy-handed explanation delivered by an uncaring character, and Linda's violent conflicts are always referenced but never explained. This is a play guided by the generic and never the specific.

The bridge is home to a conflict of uneven ideologies as opposed to fully-formed characters; Pilkington never allows us to hear the characters but instead imposes empathy without any dramatic tools for us to receive it. This is particularly evident with Ziggy, who rests at the firing line between Linda's frustrations and Jonjo's misanthropy, a character whose lack of complexity becomes highly patronizing and frustrating throughout the show.

The Boy on the Bridge is underpinned by trivialized trauma that can be traced back to the characters' childhood - the lack of theatrical nuance and complexity means the play never overcomes its own cliché. In trying to carve out the fabric of pain, Pilkington loses commitment towards the full development of his characters; there's a real confusion as to what lessons we learn from this conflict.

Bobby Hirst (Malc) brings real energy to the performance, playing the most complete and engaging character as a moneyed backpacker in search for life experiences. His wisdom and honesty bring dramatic weight to his scenes, particularly as he is the only character with the nerve to condemn the situation.

Pilkington has chosen to set The Boy on a Bridge in a vacant reflective space where the drama can be distilled - bridges, he tells us, are spaces where relationships are made or broken, lives healed or ended. Yet this metaphor lingers over the bruised and battered characters without ever settling, hovering with a forced theatricality.

Running until 29th October 2011

Reviewer: Diana Damian