A clanking metaphor for futile existence - Boy, Almeida, London

Paul Taylor
Wednesday 13 April 2016 17:58
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The poster image of Billy Elliot soaring over circumstances dangles, in cut-out, above some of the scenes here. A pointed contrast. Liam may be white and working class but this runty 17 year old doesn't know what he wants and has fallen through the cracks into the aimless limbo of the NEET. Leo Butler's powerful play follows him as he drifts through London, encountering rough sleepers, obstructive security guards, job centre officials and doctors who are too over-stretched to focus on him properly.

You can almost smell the quiet desperation of Liam's emotional and verbal inarticulacy in Frankie Fox's terrific stage debut. His pathetic semblance of a cool “Jafaican” patois merely emphasises his isolation and failure to communicate (“Nah, yeah, wicked”) except by defensive agreements (“What you said innit?”) with the fobbings-off of officialdom and the rightful, if rather incoherent, political anger of a more articulate “brov” alike.

Sacha Wares's brilliantly orchestrated production arranges the audience around a snaking conveyor belt. At first, I thought that this typically bold design by Miriam Buether was going to be a case of style upstaging content. The 26- strong cast are constantly jumping on and off the minimal props (council flat doors, Oyster barriers etc) needed for this mock-epic, often desolately funny, struggle to get from West Norwood to Sports Direct on Oxford Street without money or mobile credit. But soon it becomes a potent, clanking metaphor for the fundamentally futile, going-nowhere monotony of Liam's existence. An unforgettable 80 minutes.

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