Robert Tanitch reviews Boy at Almeida Theatre, London N1.
Leo Butler says what he is trying to do in Boy is to dramatise somebody’s life who has day after day after day nothing to do.
17-year-old Liam, not very bright, just out of school, no job, no friends, no visible parents, no money, wanders the London streets.
Nothing of interest is said. Liam (Frankie Fox making his professional stage debut) is inarticulate.
The most dramatic thing that happens is that he is very nearly arrested for travelling on the underground and not paying.
Director Sacha Wares and designer Miriam Buether, faced with making nothing happening dramatically interesting, use a serpentine travelator.
It’s like being in a Sushi restaurant; but instead of dishes of food, it is people and props constantly sliding past the audience who are seated in the round.
The stage management is kept extremely busy, endlessly putting on and taking off doors, trees, bus shelters, traffic cones, supermarket self-service checks-outs and lavatories.
The 28 characters include policemen, schoolgirls, Polish road-workers, prostitutes, a drunk being sick, mothers with prams, a man with a dog, various cleaners, social service personnel and the homeless in sleeping-bags.
The travelator upstages everybody and the play. All the research Leo Butler did could have been put to better use in a television documentary.
Liam finally goes to a job centre. Asked to imagine where he will be in five years, he has no answer. This is the social problem Butler wants the audience to address
But what the audience will still be preoccupied with, when they come out of the Almeida, is wanting to know how the actors are able to adopt seated positions for long periods of time when there are no visible chairs or stools to support them.
Levitating street performers might have the answer.