A Boy Named Sue

Sid, struggling to become Sue, proclaims, “The great barrier between myself and the outside world is my appearance”. Meanwhile, the ‘great barrier’ between A Boy Named Sueand the audience is far more difficult to identify.

Each has a story to tell, frustrations to express and yearnings to reveal.

Three characters stand facing forwards. They are separated by spaces that provide physical isolation which can be seen as a metaphor for their lives and emotions and the profound sense of loneliness that they have in common. Each has a story to tell, frustrations to express and yearnings to reveal. Their individual monologues become intertwined and at times are directly addressed to another character, yet communication is kept to a minimum. There is hearing without understanding.

The imbalance between the characters that exists in the script is exacerbated by the performances. Jack Harold as Sue dominates the play. His impeccably applied makeup and fine silk robe, dignified yet alluring posture, complemented by the precision of his seductively toned voice make this inevitable. Sue’s name appears in the title and Sue would probably say rightly so. After all, isn't it about her? There is a feeling that the play should really have been a monologue for Sue. Harrold’s meticulous characterisation would justify it.

At the other end of the stage James Dougherty, exuding an air of credible naïveté and innocence creates Louie, a beleaguered boy who is far more worldly-wise than he appears. With needs akin to a stray dog he uses his youthfulness to enter into the needy Ian’s life and becomes a pet and a nuisance at the same time, which rather mystifies him. Dougherty’ does a fine job in making this confused character rather endearing.

Between the two Dean Graham portrays the emotional wrestling of Ian whose life is caught up with the other two chararcters. The writing makes his part less clear-cut. While his relationships with Sue and Louie are comprehensible the workings of his mind are less so. Does this character, with all his talk of glass walls possess the element of ‘magic realism’ the play boasts? Graham battles boldly with Ian’s intense emotions and frustrations yet didn't seem to quite fit the bill.

There is much of interest in this play, yet the end result is less rewarding than it might be. Claudia Lee’s bare-bones production feels in keeping with Bertie Darrell’s script concerning isolated characters. Yet for all the words and revelations there seems little to take away except a sense of fascination, as opposed to a powerful message or insight.  

Reviews by Richard Beck

The Barbican

Barry Humphries Weimar Cabaret

The Bridewell Theatre

Earthquakes in London

Arts Theatre

Knights of the Rose

Multiple Venues

Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope

Jermyn Street Theatre

The Play About My Dad

Drayton Arms Theatre

Two by Jim Cartwright




The Blurb

Three seemingly disconnected characters search for a sense of community in London's rapidly disappearing gay scene. Ian refuses to leave his flat and is struggling with his first experience of online dating. Louie sleeps on the circle line all day in-between finding work as a male escort. Sue is struggling to delete Sid and has instigated a war with the builders outside her front window. The gay community has vanished, but what happens when all three characters are thrown out of their comfort zones and forced to find solace in one another?