Modern cosmopolitan life surrounds Liam, 17, who lives in London – but he’s constantly kept at arms’ length from society. His ginger locks get him jibes from girls at bus stops (“hashtag Ed Sheeran”); he’s booted out of doctor’s surgeries and job centres and away from the doorsteps of old school friends, who tell him to stop living in the past and get a life.
Liam’s life is a series of unsuccessful interactions and his outsider’s journey through London is staged intriguingly by Sacha Wares and Miriam Buether. In-the-round, Liam’s ‘path’ through life is staged on a travelator that closely resembles a luggage carousel at an airport. The play’s big, fluid production steals the show. It has a different power to that of the plot, which is straightforward, effective, and familiar-feeling. Liam’s exasperated interactions with strangers capture exactly what I’d imagine lonely life in London to be (without a job, any friends, etc).
As Liam searches for meaning in London, characters constantly arrive with new props. Doorways, bus stops, police cordons and – cleverly – a neon-yellow road sign that reads “Thank you for your patience.” We journey past night clubs, and to Sports Direct in pursuit of an old friend that works there. It is a relentless pursuit of companionship staged with simple but mass affect thanks to the dynamism and creativity of the production.
Leo Butler’s “kid with nothing to do” is brought to the stage by Frankie Fox who offers a convincing and painstaking depiction of Liam’s simmering anger and desperation. If anything, I might like to see Boy as part of a larger narrative whole – something like Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London? – but this is simply heart-rending stuff.