Phil Willmott travels through theatreland...
Meet the New Boy...
New Boy is a play written by Director/writer Russell Labey, the man behind several landmark gay productions, including the provocatively titled (and marketed) Hardcore, which created a stir in the hearts and trousers of many a gay theatre goer.
The former is adapted from William Sutcliffe’s novel of the same name. I haven’t read the book but if it’s anything like the play it beautifully captures all the humiliations and exhilarations of first love and finding your own voice and body during your teen age years.
Luke Kempner plays awkward Jewish teen Mark, whose attraction to new boy Barry (Gregg Lowe) pushes him to excruciating extremes of obsession, passions and jealousy, all expressed with the wry despair of a young man convinced he’s unworthy of his beautiful school mate’s affections.
Anyone who struggled through school, crippled by a crush on their best friend, will identify with this stomach lurching roller coaster of trying to fit in whilst screaming inside.
Kempner plays him with just the right sardonic wit as he first pimps his incredulous virgin mate to half the girls school and then a female French teacher whilst obsessing over the occasional references to homosexuality that pepper their banter.
Gregg Lowe too is excellent at capturing the idolised Barry’s journey through disbelief and exploitation to becoming his own person and defining his sexuality for himself.
The piece gets a little baggy in the second half as it embraces the twists and turns of the original novel's structure, but the one liners are consistently laugh-out-loud and there’s excellent support from Phil Matthews, Eleanor Gecks and Heather Wright in a series of flashy star turns.
Apart from occasional references to the plays original setting – milk bottles and thoughts of Kim Bassinger provide sexual relief – the play has barely dated although ingenious designer Jason Denvir needs to decide if we’re in a time of Star Wars memorabilia or Abercrombie and Fitch.
This is a short, punchy, funny evening delivered with great aplomb by Labey that will resonate with most gay men. Take your old school mates – show ‘em what else you were going through as you wrestled with Oxy cream and O’levels*.
New Boy is showing at Tabard Theatre, 0208 994 5985, 2 Bath Road, Chiswick, London, W4 1LW, until May17th.