There is a bit of a buzz around BOY. It was first performed as an interactive Theatre-In-Education piece for schools and colleges; now it is a show for adults, and there is even talk of it becoming a musical. And it is easy to see why. BOY is a much-needed look at the continuing, possibly escalating, epidemic of LGBT+ bullying in our schools. Part verbatim theatre, part play, the show neatly correlates historical perspectives with contemporary ones by interpolating verbatim accounts of adults who have experienced LGBT+ bullying between scenes in a contemporary, school-set drama.
This should be required viewing, not only for school children, but for their parents as well
The company have been careful to create this piece from interviews and focus groups with young people, using the words and phrases they hear or use. And it shows. The resulting dialogue sounds completely authentic. Aided only by four plastic chairs, the four actors very skilfully portray various thoroughly believable contemporary school children, creating a breathless, frenetic, and sometimes sinister, atmosphere on stage – think Blue Remembered Hills on Dexedrine. The story concerns four school friends whose friendship collapses after an idle quip about lavender soap becomes a standing joke, and then turns into a platform for relentless homophobic bullying. The consequences are devastating. Joe, the victim of the abuse, periodically addresses the audience throughout the piece, giving us an insight into his mental state and the reasons behind his behaviour in response to the bullying. The point is clearly made that young people can easily become trapped, incapable of reaching out to parents or teachers for help, fearing that in so doing they are betraying their so-called friends.
The interpolated verbatim aspect of the show works well to create historical context. Beginning with an explanation of the infamous Section 28 for those too young to remember it (Dame Jill Knight’s noxious brainchild, whereby councils were forbidden to "promote homosexuality as a pretended family relationship") the accounts lead us gradually to the conclusion that the situation is probably worse for LGBT+ school children now than it was previously. But it is not all gloom: the accounts are shot through with the recognition that homophobes can, and do, change their minds. Education is the key to achieving this, of course, as one of the verbatim accounts reminds us. And in that spirit BOY should be required viewing, not only for school children, but for their parents as well.