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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.

Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography 2 web
Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography

She is intriguing and unnerving. And in a female character, it is refreshing and delicious to watch.

As Irina, Aimée Kelly's performance is edgy, dark and sharp, drawing out the wit in the script. She also portrays the people in Irina's life and the models. Irina's overly protective friend Flo is particularly fun.

The staging is simple but effective. When Irina is in her 'studio', an image is projected onto the back wall. Emails from the gallery appear on a gauzy screen that divides the front and rear of the stage.

Boy Parts avoids the usual stereotypes of female characters. Would I want to spend time in Irina's company? Definitely not, but there is something inherently watchable about her.

Dark, intense and witty with a superb performance by Aimée Kelly, I'm giving Boy Parts ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Boy Parts, Soho Theatre

Adapted by Gillian Greer from the novel by Eliza Clark

Directed by Sara Joyce

Starring Aimée Kelly

Running time: 80 minutes without an interval

Booking until 25 November, visit Soho Theatre's website for details and tickets.

Related reading:

 Theatre in 5 Questions with Sara Joyce

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