Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Mad About The Boy

Gbolahan Obisesan
Iron Shoes
Unicorn Theatre

Simon Darwen and Bayo Gbadamosi Credit: Slav Kirichov
Bayo Gbadamosi and Simon Darwen Credit: Slav Kirichov

Mad About The Boy by writer / director Gbolahan Obisesan has won Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2011 and undoubtedly this is a clever piece of contemporary writing.

It is story of ‘a boy' but mainly about the society that surrounds him, that tries to save him but manages to condemn him.

The boy, who is left unnamed like the other two characters, Dad and Man (the counsellor), is problematic, follows the wrong gang and cannot achieve good grades. Dad and Man try to understand him, guide him in the right direction. When Boy seems to get the grip, to have found some direction, however, it is the world of youth, of violence and crime from his schoolyard and from the streets that puts him in an even worse situation.

Obisesan's script is a sad account about youth, generational conflict, social and individual responsibility, hopelessness. It is one of these stories that you read about in news report, you see played out in TV dramas; in this case, however, the finger is not pointed to the family, the educators, the government. A boy has got his future in his own hands and the imperative is to speak up, to stand up against his mates' violence, ultimately to take responsibility.

At least this is what we gather from this intelligent yet at times fuzzy script.

Both the staging and the acting are highly stylized in tune with the rhythms and poetic innuendos of the script: the three actors never talk directly to one another, never look at each other in their dialogical exchanges. As they are stand or sit, they face the audience in a modus operandi that almost forces them into the role of reporters, story-tellers rather than characters. This is held all throughout the 50-minute show.

The exchanges are quick, sharp, and punchy when the characters try to outdo each other. The story takes shape in a narrative that is fragmented yet well structured. There is enough sassy and explicit sex-talk to keep the young audience amused and the jargon is fresh and current.

Albeit understanding director Ria Parry's choice—or the writer's—to keep the characters alienated from each other—possibly it is all about alienated human relations—this device is not always easy to endure and this pseudo-Brechtian style does not easily serve either the story or the pathos of the characters. There is not enough meat for a dramatic epiphany, especially when at the end it is all left a bit aloof.

This production needs strong acting to keep up with its pace and the pathos of the drama that unfolds.

But, unfortunately, what really disappoints me from this production is the subdued acting of, mainly, Dad and Man: Jason Barnett and Simon Darwen. Their delivery is monochromatic, heavy and unimaginative. Bayo Gbadamosi, Boy, from the original cast, is, instead, more convincing.

While, when I saw the show, the numerous young audience sounded amused and entertained from Gbadamos's performance and charm—his character has, after all, the best and funniest lines—I wonder how much the rest really impressed them.

It is one of these shows that can leave you rather cold and untouched. As the final scene rushes the story to an abrupt end in an over-pathetic fashion, the clever script, the stylised and minimalist staging felt more like an interesting theatrical exercise than a finished production.

Reviewer: Mary Mazzilli