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October 2023

Review: Boy Parts, Soho Theatre - a refreshingly unstereotypical female character

Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography web
Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography

When I interviewed director Sara Joyce about Boy Parts, how she talked about the central character in Boy Parts immediately piqued my interest. She describes Irina (Aimée Kelly) as not immediately likeable but that her story is nonetheless compelling. 

This 'pitch-black psychological thriller' is adapted from Eliza Clark's novel by Gillian Greer, Boy Parts tells the story of how photographer Irina has a chance at making it in the art world when a London gallery expresses an interest in her work.

She persuades ordinary men she meets to model for her in increasingly erotic photos. Irina subverts the idea of the male gaze and enjoys her power over the men from behind the lens, getting them to do what she wants and being in control. 

But there is something darker lurking beneath, which is drawn out as the door of opportunity begins to close. She can be charming and intimidating, controlling and unpredictable.

There is something broken and twisted in her. She gets into fights and into situations where her laughter response isn't really about humour.

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Review: The Boy, Soho Theatre - Light touch story of refugees

The boy soho theatre poster

On a bus carrying people fleeing a war-torn country, a man (Jerome Ngonadi) takes a boy (Eve Von Elgg) under his wing. When they arrive in the country where they seek refuge, the assumption is they are father and son, and the man plays along, deciding it is better they stick together.

Joakim Daun's play follows the two through the process to get refugee status - the man can't work until he has the official paperwork - and afterwards when their path crosses that of a woman (Shereen Roushbaiani) who has recently lost a baby.

The early scenes touch on the trauma of refugees and the impersonal process of applying for refugee status.

It also explores the tension between assimilating into a new country and culture without losing your own. The boy's youth means he picks up the new language quickly, but the man is keen that he doesn't lose the language and culture of his home country.

Eve Von Elgg's performance brilliantly captures the energy and innocence of the boy, and where the play is at its best is in its exploration of the struggles of refugees in their adopted country - albeit it does it with a light touch.

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Review: Portia Coughlan, Almeida Theatre - a play that got under my skin

Portia Coughlan

At the interval during Portia Coughlan at the Almeida, I turned to my friend and said, 'it's very Greek tragedy'. At that point, I hadn't seen the Almeida's behind-the-scenes video in which Alison Oliver, who plays Portia, says: "It's very Greek in terms of the extremities she goes through".

I'd been careful to avoid any information about the play so I could sit down and watch without preconceived ideas.

Which seems a good time to do a spoiler warning. There may be more detail than I would typically include in this. Click away now if that's not your bag.

When we first meet Portia, she's still in her night dress and already drinking. It's her birthday, but her mood isn't exactly celebratory. Her emotions are strained by the absence of her twin brother Gabriel, who died 15 years earlier.

She is dismissive, distant and harsh to her loving husband and neglectful of her three children. This isn't a person in a good place.

Pain and grief roll off her in waves, but there is a desire for something. Sometimes it's a desire to forget, perhaps to feel something else or escape. During the day, she seeks out sex with lovers as well as drink.

There is also a desire for something more destructive; she doesn't seem to care about being seen.

But equally, she feels acutely her family's silence around Gabriel. Her family are unsympathetic, and she takes their reprimands silently - most of the time.

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Theatre in 5 questions with director Sara Joyce - "We wanted to fight for her without making her inherently likeable"

Sara Joyce  Aimée Kelly  Gill Greer  Eliza Clark (c) Rebecca Need-Menear
L-R Sara Joyce with fellow Boy Parts creatives: Aimée Kelly (actor), Gill Greer (adaptation) and Eliza Clark (novel). Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear

Theatre director Sara Joyce's previous work includes Dust by Milly Thomas and Fringe First winning The Last Return. Here she talks about her new project, Boy Parts, what drew her to working in the theatre, her favourite theatre and how she'll be feeling on press night.

Boy Parts is described as a pitch-black psychological thriller adapted by Gillian Greer from Eliza Clark's novel and is at the Soho Theatre from 19 October. 

This is an edited version of the interview; scroll down to watch the full interview.

What made you want to work in theatre?

I wanted to work in something to do with entertainment or storytelling. I was acting, and I thought: well, I'm going to be an actor, and I don't think I saw anything outside of theatre as accessible.

Maybe it was just narrow-mindedness, or I didn't really think about it. And I think luckily so because I love it.

And then there's the question of why you keep working in theatre. I enjoy the event of it. I was thinking about it this week in rehearsal, and it feels a bit like you're planning a party that's going to be on every night.

There's something both vital and redundant about it at the same time.  

I love rehearsals. I love making things from scratch and figuring things out. And I love the shared experience with a team - people coming up with ideas you'd never think of.

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Review: These Demons, Theatre 503 - atmospheric and funny but not quite the thriller it sets out to be

TheseDemons_Theatre503-61 - credit Lidia Crisafulli
These Demons, Theatre 503 Oct 23. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

A dilapidated cottage in the woods, where a woman lives alone studying demons: The setting for Rachel Bellman's play These Demons has all the hallmarks of a dark, gothic tale.

Rather than a fantasy medieval setting, the present-day cottage owner is Mirah (Ann Marcuson), a teacher and writer whose pet subject is Jewish demonology.

Her niece Leah (Olivia Marcus) has bunked off school to visit, trailed by her serious and straight-laced older sister Danielle (Liv Andrusier), who has come to take her home.

But Mirah is being demonised by a local youth who possibly caused her knee injury, and her niece Leah is determined to confront him if only to test her own theory of demons, literal or otherwise.

Through Leah and Danielle's strained conversations and flashbacks to Mirah, we learn of an absent mother, sibling rows that led to estrangement and the pressures the younger family members feel.

Jewish demonology provides an atmospheric background, with strange sounds planting seeds of doubt and slightly translucent cottage walls giving way to shapes and movements in the darkness beyond.

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