Boys’ Life @ The New Theatre by Mav Reynolds

The start of this much-anticipated season has not left the audience dissatisfied. ‘Boys’ Life,’ if not a finely cut diamond, has emerged from the stony earth of Gus Miller’s imagination, and left behind its rougher surroundings to bask in the more rarefied airs of theatrical realisation. The play follows the lives of three friends, Jack (Ollie Silver), Don (Angus McRae), and Phil (Stephen James Irvine), as they pursue hopes of love, with distinctly differing attitudes and agendas.

At its core this is a play about how to approach the conflicts between the sexes, and the difficulties and disagreements that arise therein. At times it even approaches almost Conradian moments of philosophical insight, remarking on the flimsy nature of social constructs. It comes close to displaying the hardships encountered by incompatible interlocutors, and manages to find humour in the pain and boredom of the male condition.

Silver’s character, Jack, has the role of the dissatisfied alpha male, who unfulfilled by family, longs for the freedom of his youth. This characterisation is beautifully approached with touches of subtlety in a script composed of blunt humour. Irvine plays the other end of the spectrum: A man low on confidence who inclines toward obsequies, and premature declarations of overwrought love. Again this character is beautifully played and will manage to elicit some of the loudest chuckles from the audience. He is an instantly lovable and pathetic individual. McRae’s part sits somewhere between the two and unfortunately this portrayal has difficulties. The reason for this is that the character has to undergo a transition from the influences and attitudes held by Jack to those more felt by Phil. The interaction between these three has outstanding moments, particularly in the opening sequence. However, unfortunately, the change, which occurs in the trio’s relationship when Don finds ‘love,’ does not ring true on an emotional level. The economies of scale being what they are in theatre do not allow for any vagueness. In performance the exact nature of the emotional confluence is rarely driven home.

The supporting roles provided by Jamie Munro, Rosie Tressler, Kristen McGachey and Polly Keane have delightful touches, particularly in the flirtatious relationship between Silver and Tressler, beautifully established through sparse hints and insinuation. Keane’s portrayal of the insane ‘Girl’ whom Don takes to bed is perhaps the highlight of the piece. Five minutes of hilarity to which McRae is a more than ample foil. The awkward humour in this scene is wonderful.

Miller Has achieved a great deal with a paucity of time and resource. This is not to say that there is not confusion in the piece. At times it is hard to realise whether this is a dark comedy or an emotive character study in the ‘theatre of the mundane.’ At moments it certainly achieves both. Personally, I will be returning at some point this week and I would advise anyone reading this to do so. I would love to see what they could have done with two more weeks.

Mav Reynolds

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