Mad About the Boy

Mad About the Boy, the new play from Gbolahan Obisesan, could not have come along at a better time. With the London riots springing up during the show's run here, the script's exploration of youth criminality in London, and of young black culture in particular, speaks directly to many debates on societal decay, responsibility and generational difference that are currently in the forefronts of many minds.We are presented with three characters, named for their roles: Boy, Dad, and Man, who is the Boy's school counsellor. Each is fantastically cast and performed immaculately. It transpires that the Boy has assaulted a teacher. And then that he has witnessed a sexual assault, maybe even a rape. This is the crux of the play: will the Boy recognise the rule of law and hand in the assailants to the authorities or will he stay loyal to the gang culture with which he identifies and stay silent?Obisesan's use of language is superb – he has a knack of assembling speech so that, although each parts feels perfectly natural, it all stacks together into sophisticated rhythmic patterns, patterns that start and stop and meander around the three performers wherever they need to go. The most linguistically inventive and charismatic of the characters is Boy – in the tradition of anti-heroes such as Alex from A Clockwork Orange, his obvious creativity is both an invitation by which the audience can empathise with his actions and a hint at his unrealised potential to be something better.This empathy, however, is not sustained through of the play. Once the central dilemma becomes apparent, he seems suddenly – although we may feel sorry for him – entirely unlikable, as empathy dissolves in the face of his grave irresponsibility towards the issue of protecting someone in need. If the play had the power to make the audience feel as though they shared in the dilemma, instead of merely observing it, the piece would have been as powerful as it is topical. Mad About the Boy therefore feels to me like a play not quite finished. Its language is superb and its issues never-more relevant – for some this may even make it one of the festival's must-see shows. But for me, it was half an hour too short and didn't cover enough ground, either narratively or emotionally, making it nothing, in the end, to go too crazy about.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

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The Blurb

Boy. Dad. Man. A lyrical tussle of will and minds. Written by Gbolahan Obisesan. Directed by Ria Parry. Presented by Iron Shoes (Fringe First Award 2009) in association with the National Theatre Studio and ScenePool.