My patience is running a bit thin with the Almeida Theatre; a mediocre Bakhai, a outright awful Medea, a boring Little Eyolf, an overlong Uncle Vanya/Johnny and now the pointless Boy. I booked based on the director-design team Sacha Wares and Miriam Buether,who previously produced the innovative Game at the Almeida. The set was going to be amazing, even if nothing else was.
Unfortunately this is what we got, I worry when a theatre of Almeida’s reputation doesn’t have star names and it has chosen gimmicks: a travelator and impressive props-including the floating devices that ‘Yoda’ uses in London’s top tourist areas) over a coherent play and a cast capable of doing anything with it. The set, no matter how interesting, cannot distract from a weak play.
The sad truth is Frankie Fox’s Liam (the Boy) is not interesting, important or even realistic enough to care about. Fox’s strength is being able to make this character consistently awful in his performance as it is clear it hasn’t come from the writing.
Leo Butler’s script is basically buzz words. ‘Sanctions!’ ‘ESA!’ ‘Zero hours!’ and some unconvincing swearing from an 8 year old. It isn’t that Butler doesn’t understand poverty or the underclass-he simply doesn’t care and as a result neither do the audience.
The audience is one of the problems. The middle class theatre audiences of Islington don’t understand or want this. A recent Guardian article called this poverty porn and that is exactly it. It reinforces the opinion that the poor can’t help themselves and as a child of a single parent on benefits I find it infuriating. Not one character is poor and trying to better themselves. The poor are ignorant, rude and incapable of bettering themselves, not because of the cuts or society but because them. It is an issue where a good play can be produced. This isn’t it.
There’s issues of race too. I can’t boohoo for the white Liam, who will have more opportunities than any of the ethnic minority poor in his orbit. A white middle class character approaches his asking character for drugs because he looks a bit rough. Really? At 80 minutes it is 80 minutes too long and a real disservice to theatre aimed at young people.