Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Boys at The Vaults

The eight-strong cast of Boys brings to the Vault Festival a flamboyant celebration of boyhood, made even more momentous by the excruciating lack of representation that young adults suffer in mainstream theatre. 

The gang bursts on to stage, accompanied by an upbeat track, before one of them stops everything to address the audience directly: "The best way to start a show about boys," he reckons, "is to pick a fight." The scene rewinds and the clan erupt on stage again, pumped and ready for a scuffle, only to find out that their victim is refusing to play. A discreet chatter amongst themselves and the fight scene can resume. The audience cracks immediately, setting the tone for the gleeful and empowering hour that follows. 

Despite its playfulness, this isn’t a performance that should be judged by its cover and there's much more to it than mere entertainment value. It is, in fact, a deep piece of devised and physical theatre, used to share personal histories and showcase pride for a heritage that is rooted in beautiful countries like Jamaica, Cameroon, Afghanistan, India and the Philippines. 

One by one, the boys recall the deeds of the most inspiring family member who started it all, leaving their native land for ambition or necessity. The only team member who can't retrace his history is gently supported by the group to create its own and be the source of his own inspiration.

Diversity and cultural identity are given a fresh first-hand perspective, where spoken words are complimented by a forward-thinking musical score and touching body language. The audience is taken on a journey which involves heartfelt laughter and tears, intimacy and silliness.

Acting mainly as an ensemble, the individuals don't shy away from the spotlight and are eager to show their abilities. High jumps, splits, acrobatics and funny grimaces are displayed in a 'best of' competition, fuelled by the genuine enthusiasm that naturally belongs to their age. 

There's an amazing act with two very talented dancers, who express affection, rejection and desire with gravity-defying figures and an impeccable cueing of music, lyrics and lighting. The routine is mesmerising and, luckily, we get to have a second take of it later in the performance. 

Both tender and powerful, the boys don't need an elaborate script to deliver their resounding message and I can't think of anything that's not to love about this smart, uplifting and socially relevant piece. Boys truly deserves a bigger stage and I'm looking forward to seeing it again!

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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