Firstly, a comment on this new theatre. Based around the bottom of Battersea Power Station, I was really impressed to see this new theatre, with its new and inventive décor and friendly staff doing so well and with such a brilliant and versatile space. It was perfect for the show I was about to review.
Boy Out The City is a quirky, comical, heart wrenching and heart warming one man, autobiographical story. Written and performed by Declan Bennett, it is the first show I have seen that is based upon the pandemic. I thought there would be more but maybe they are still in the making. I mention this, as I hope this review highlights that this was the perfect show to return to normality with and really picks up on what most of us felt during the last year. Bennett talks about how he and his partner moved from London to the countryside. With his partner also an actor, he gets invited to a job in the States, while Bennett is left alone in his cottage in the middle of nowhere. Bennett talks about mental health, about the bad habits we all adopted to cope, about loneliness, about sexuality but also about nostalgia and how it makes us who we are.
Bennett’s show is absolutely hilarious. Perfect in execution, not a single falter, high energized and full of information, at times it feels very much like sitting with a friend and talking. He is personable, he is down to earth, and this all helps with telling his story.
While he is funny and picks upon things that were huge parts of the pandemic for many (drinking wine at 2am, sleeping till late, being lonely, nothing to do) he also effortlessly moves this into very serious questions and issues in society such an men’s mental health, of sexuality and growing up denying being gay to fit in and avoid violence. These moments, I wouldn’t say, came out the blue, but when they are slotted in, your smile from the hilarity before has gone, and your heart aches for what he has been through.
He isn’t afraid to touch upon, and negatively, about his past and what he thought at the time. Of the mistakes he made just to fit in and be safe. A story that i’m sure many in this community can associate to. In fact, those who also are not but can identify the things they did, growing up, just to feel a part of the world.
We talk about the Pandemic as being different for everyone. Yes, we went through the same rules and regulations, and while mental health issues went through the roof, as individuals, we all coped differently. Bennett is clever and picks up on the ones that he did that we can relate to, and therefore a good chunk of his comedy is laughing at the relatable nature and all we saw and heard during the last year.
He uses the stage well – different points highlight the different parts of his story, from the cottage, to his neighbour, to the bar on St Patrick’s Day, even to his past. Minimal set and props are used but they are effective. Nothing is there just for the sake of it. And I loved this. All too easy do theatre makers find props and set upon props and set to fill a room, when it isn’t needed. I also notice that one person productions also do this, to slightly shy away from their performance. Bennett was loud, he was present, he filled the stage. And that’s one of the many parts that made it perfect. As someone writing their own one woman play, it gave me much food for thought.
Boy Out The City is a cultural revelation after a tough time in the World. It is raw, it is emotional, it is absolutely hilarious and it is essential.
Please do look out for this production which aims to have future life across the country.