THE BOY JAMES
by Alexander Wright.
Southwark Playhouse (The Vaults) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley Street/Bermondsey Street SE1 2TF To 28 January 2011.
Tue-Fri; Sun 7.30pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 January.
Belt Up Theatre again excel in creating an atmospheric environment.
The boy James offers the audience biscuits and persuades them to join in games. Then hides fearfully when the man called James returns – suggesting the audience conceal themselves somehow, within the claustrophobic studio space where the paraphernalia of an adult study – desk, cabinet – merges with the domestic chairs and cushions seating the audience.
Not for nothing is this playful boy called James. His delight in adventures and make-believe, in the safety of his home, has something of the Peter Pan to it. Yet Sir James Barrie, whose hand penned Pan, knew the necessity of adulthood as clearly as the man James, whose stern rejection of the capering, high-pitched youth suggests underlying effort and renunciation.
What Barrie couldn’t have articulated in his day is the crucial role of sex. The boy James is delighted when a Wendy-like female crashes from the chimney, but the big adventure becomes awful for him when she demands sex – very much the kind of reality he cannot bear. No wonder it’s a swipe from her that lays adult James flat-out as he’s trying to escape from the literally clinging boy James.
This is something of a cider with Rosie moment (a wine decanter is another object separating child from adult), with, also, the demand the boy take on the responsibility of a relationship.
Jethro Compton’s lively manner suits his childlike attempts to have others go along with his games, fantasies and evasions of wider realities. Having warmed the audience up through Belt Up Theatre’s trademark involving of spectators in events, it takes some time for the situation to resolve into a new perspective – James Wilkes’ offputting sternness on first entering is complicit in this.
But, from the opening high-jinks, Dominic J Allen’s production charts a gradual wind-down as Compton’s character becomes more clingingly dependent, Wilkes makes clear the necessity of the adult James’ decision to reject the child in himself and Lucy Farrett’s Girl gradually asserts her demands on the boy.
It may be more atmosphere than action, but still makes an intriguing approach to the complexities lying behind a perennial Christmas theatre classic.
The Boy: Jethro Compton.
The Girl: Lucy Farrett.
James: James Wilkes.
Director: Dominic J Allen.
Lighting: Jethro Compton.
Sound: Gareth Prescott.
Music: Alexander Wright.