The Boy Who Cried** (Hope Theatre)

Posted: March 10, 2014 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Review:

A full moon rises, a girl goes missing and a werewolf may be on the loose in London. When Sam, a teenager, is seen by his mother, naked by the river and with a bite mark on his neck, she calls in the authorities to investigate. The trend established in successful films and television series to juxtapose elements of gothic horror onto stories about troubled adolescents seems to be drifting into the theatre. Let the Right One In, seen recently at the Royal Court will soon transfer to London’s West End, indicating that there is a ready-made audience for plays in this sub-genre. However, new writer Matt Osman’s work excludes the romantic themes embraced by most of its predecessors and is given a much smaller production, without special effects. The first half strikes a very uneasy balance between drama and comedy, each of which works against the other. Protection Officer Thompson arrives to interrogate Sam (Jordan Mallory-Skinner) and obtain a confession before the next full moon. As Thompson, Jake Curran is required to be sinister and threatening in one scene and a bumbling clown in the next. Understandably, he struggles. At the same time, the mother (Shelley Lang) often seems more like a character in a farce than a concerned parent. The comedy includes some quite clever jokes, but they fall flat because the context is completely wrong for them.  As a result of gratuitous comic diversions early in the play, the three main characters and the relationships between them are underdeveloped in preparation for a second half in which the balance tilts much more towards meaty drama. All the performances now grow in strength as the focus turns to a battle of wills between Thompson and Sam, the former resorting to torture in order to satisfy his obsession with proving Sam’s guilt. The drama builds to a long, tension-filled final scene which is spoken partly in verse, thereby adding to the overall surreal tone. So, what are the messages that this play is trying to convey? At first it seems as if we are looking at a metaphor for teenage angst, with allusions to mental health problems. Perhaps lycanthropy is a misdiagnosis of depression or schizophrenia and, when Sam talks of being “torn between the need to be alone and the need never to be alone”, these themes seem to underlie the story. However, Osman then changes track and makes his play about an Orwellian authoritarian state oppressing a dissenting individual. Confusion of styles in the main text is matched by confusion of purpose in the sub text. The Boy Who Cried is interesting and different, if not completely successful. However, it is fair to say that, reflecting the name of this new pub theatre, all concerned with the production show considerable promise for the future.

Performance date: 7 March 2014

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