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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review

"What do you see yourself doing in five year's time? " — Job Centre interviewer
Frankie Fox as Liam (Photo: Kwame Lestrade)
It is the most diverting of productions. Director Sacha Wares and Miriam Buether's design has a snaking, serpentine moving belt like a giant sushi delivery or a luggage claim at the airport. On these connecting pieces are large studs which allow chairs and furniture, doors and people to be fixed to them. The actors have special shoes which fit on to the studs and inside their clothes is a hidden support which allows them to appear to be sitting in mid air. The dramatic advantage is a seamless way of moving people on and off stage without waiting to move the furniture. The audience surround the moving stage and no view is blocked for long.

It is visually riveting to watch as the stage managers set up numerous doors to represent a floor of a block of flats or a bus shelter or some road works or trees for a park. The process of changing these things has an exciting and transfixing momentum all of its own. These props form the London environment in which school leaver Liam (Frankie Fox) finds himself at a loss. The statistics are there: those achieving least well academically at school are white boys from the working classes. They are the neglected group, no-one's priority.

So Liam travels from the doctor's to the park, to the bus stop, past the road works, to a sports shop where he can't afford the trainers, to the housing department and the job exchange. He tries to connect with a friend from school speaking, an unintelligible to us, street dialect which he perceives as cool. He encounters a homeless girl in the tube but he belongs nowhere.

At the bus stop he sees some feisty black girls who are eating chips but he can't connect. Liam's mobile is for show only, it has no battery in it. The road workers speak to each other in Polish. Tourists are at the bus stop. In Sainsbury the checkout machine intones "Unexpected item in the bagging area.

This production is sponsored by the Almeida and "Arsenal in the community", a charitable initiative from the famous North London football club to help with youth culture and youth unemployment in the area. Many of the young cast are making their stage debut. What director Sasha Wares has created is a realistic series of snapshots set in the city, recognisable but isolating, with Liam, seeking something but not sure what that is. He has no money, no support. Gareth Fry's soundscape is so relevant and evocative of the noises of the city.

The furious activity of installing and removing the props contrasts with Liam's own lack of purpose, identity and companionship. The audience too will find themselves easily distracted, shamed that they cannot address the issues for 17 year olds like Liam. Boy is compelling theatre.
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Written by Leo Butler
Directed by Sacha Wares
Starring: Frankie Fox
With: Mohammad Amiri, Osmain Baig, Ruby Bridle, Emilio Doorgasingh, Terina Drayton, Aeran Fitzgerald, Ellie Mai Gallagher, Bayleigh Gray, Zainab Hasan, Duramaney Kamara, Asiatu Koroma, Wendy Kweh, Lev Litvinov, Georgie Lord, Angel Loren, Teann McDonnell, Eugenie-Alexia Mulumba, Sarah Niles, Demi Papaminas, Imogen Roberts, Abdul Salis, Morgane Tapia, Peter Temple and Matthew Wellard.
Set designed by Miriam Buether
Costume: Ultz
Lighting: Jack Knowles
Movement: Leon Baugh
Sound: Gareth Fry
Almeida Theatre in Partnership with Arsenal in the community
Running time: One hour 15 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Booking to 28th May 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th April 2016 performance at The Almeida, Upper Street London N1 1TA (Tube: The Angel)
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