“Imagine – not caring, aw, just for a second – just imagine…”
Youth: what does it really mean and when does it really end? Does it ever end? Ella Hickson’s new play, BOYS, tackles these difficult questions that we all wonder about, but don’t quite have the answers to. BOYS comes to life on the ADC stage, and is running from Tuesday 17th to Saturday 21st in the Week 2 main show slot. Four young Scottish men- Benny, played by Conor Dumbrell; Cam, played Tom Taplin; Timp, played by Adam Mirsky and Mack, played by Louis Norris- must face the impending and terrifying transition from their secure bubble of university to adult life. And, despite the title, there are in fact girls in the play. Sophie, played by Jessica Murdoch, and Maya Yousif, who plays Laura, are two characters who must also figure out whether they are ready to leave the irresponsibility and freedom of adolescence behind.
The play opens in a messy student flat the morning after a party. There are bin bags and balloons strewn across the floor and a pink bra hanging from a door handle. It is the end of an era, and the four boys contemplate whether they are ready to move on from blissful youth to the grim and daunting world of adulthood. Exams are over. Prospective students seem to be invading the area that these boys regard as their home. The lease is up in a week. Surely the best and only way to go out is with one last raging party? The four flatmates contrast greatly: Benny seems to be the most responsible of the group; Cam is a slightly neurotic, but talented violinist; Timp is carefree and reckless; whereas Mack is cynical yet mysterious, but they all share the idea that nobody wants to grow up, not really. They were all portrayed fantastically, and experience appropriate levels of character development as the play progresses. The bawdy lad’s chat shared between them soon transitions into more serious and sometimes uncomfortable conversation.
The council won’t take the rubbish away, and the heat is making it stink. The clutter onstage gave the set a cramped feel, as if all the characters were invading each other’s personal space. This worked especially well since it seemed that as the amount of bin bags piled up, the agitation the characters expressed towards each other increased. The events of the outside world are detailed by the characters looking out of their window and reporting back to each other, but, even then, sometimes the madness outside feels secondary to what the six young adults are experiencing within their bubble. The two acts cover a short time frame (only a couple of days and nights) and because of this, there seems to be an added time pressure; a need to get all the revelry out of the way before they finally have to settle down and be serious. The tone of the play becomes foreboding once the curtains drop after a dramatic question is blurted out during a party. The second act sees tensions flare further, friendships deteriorate, relationships questioned, secrets revealed, confessions made, and even more drugs and alcohol being consumed. As an audience member, I felt like if I moved too much in my seat or coughed loudly enough, something else would go wrong.
As Tuesday was the show’s opening night, there were some expected blips, such as muddled lines and issues with sound. However, overall, BOYS was an enjoyable watch. I was a fan of the bright background colours and the music played during scene changes. I took particular interest in the play’s portrayal of masculinity and male friendships as well as its nuanced look at mental health. After the show there’s an opportunity to give to the charity Mind, which I think is great. I liked BOYS because it is not only relatable, but honest. Navigating through romantic and platonic relationships at the same as worrying about the future feels oddly familiar. In spite of the mistakes that the characters make, the play ends on an optimistic note. The bin bags begin to be shifted by Benny and Cam, which seemed to signify upcoming change in all four of the boys’ lives. BOYS is colourful, irreverent and generally wonderful to watch, and I would highly recommend it.