It is often said that life is a conveyer belt that we crawl onto at one end and get thrown off at the other, but how would we get back on if we were to tumble off part way? Extending this analogy, the Almeida has been turned into something like an airport baggage reclaim hall (or a giant sushi bar?) with the belt on continuous revolve. Poor, bewildered 17-year-old Liam moves on and off as London life goes on unstoppably all around him, not quite sure what he is meant to be doing there. Writer Leo Butler tells us very little about Liam; he has dropped out from school, has a half sister, so presumably comes from a broken home, but knowing little about him could emphasise Butler’s key point – would anyone encountering him ever take time to ask? He is so insignificant that even the police cannot be bothered to prosecute him for a petty offence. His GP’s only interest is to fill out a check list and a Job Centre worker shows relief that he can put off dealing with him until he is 18. Frankie Fox is mightily impressive as Liam, prowling the streets in his hoody, remaining defiantly cocky in the face of adversity and taking every rejection on the chin. A lot of credit for the success of Sacha Wares’ production must go to him and to the stage managers who make sure that all the bus shelters, traffic cones, tube ticket gates, supermarket checkouts, etc are in the right place on the belt at the right time. Credit too to the Almeida itself for finding room for an imaginative work of contemporary relevance in the middle of a programme including Ibsen, Chekhov and Shakespeare, Ultimately, Butler’s single-minded focus on ordinary everyday life robs the play of some dramatic impact, but it only runs for under 80 minutes, as long as it often takes for bags to arrive at Heathrow, Boy is a far more rewarding experience than that and it will have done its job if, the next time we spot a Liam on the street (as Londoners inevitably will), we just take notice of his presence.
Performance date: 27 April 2016