Mad About the Boy was written by Gbolahan Obisesan, and I was lucky enough to catch it on it’s latest tour on Saturday September 29 at 3pm in the Studio of Bristol Old Vic Theatre.
The play is a 3 hander, and written using incredible reserve and precision of language. On paper the language is initially quite tough to read, and is sometime awkward to follow the flow, and always see the meaning. On stage, with direction from Ria Parry, it really comes alive and, from the off is clever and witty. The three characters – a boy of around 14, his father and a man who is connected with the boys school in some way; either a teacher or school counselor, stand or sit at all times apart from the last moment, side by side facing the audience. Their expressions are as though they are talking with one another so I felt I was almost included in their circle. I felt compelled to take a stance.
The play explores the differences in the three generations, using gang rape that was instigated by the boy as the pivot. At the start this could easily be any number of stories about adults in despair over the lack of respect of today’s youth. What makes this play different is the way, and the pace with which this story is told. It was just an hour long, with 4 scenes. We are never explicitly told anything, just give short bursts of speech. Often each line from each character is no more than a word at a time, and a picture of what is going on is painted a stroke at a time by each character in turn. As audience members we fill in the gaps and there is a silent understanding.
Certain key facts are left hazy, such as who exactly the female in the play is and what her reaction to the event is. This play is kept so pure and paired back that we are left to clearly see a number of different issues, but not given any opinion on them. Leaving us as the audience to question how we got here. To a time where rape happens in a school. An institution that is supposed to be a safe learning environment. Whose fault is it and what do we do about it.
There is a lot to take away from this simple play and much of this was also helped by such strong performances from all three male actors. It was moving and well executed in every sense. It is clear to see why it is an award winning play.