As a story about one particular couple, Boy Stroke Girl is fascinating. I was not certain, however, whether it can be extrapolated to wider society to any great extent, and the almost devastating line from ‘A Winter’s Tale’, a song made famous by David Essex, came to mind: “On a worldwide scale / We’re just another winter’s tale.” The central premise of the play, that nobody has to be defined by predetermined notions or ‘labels’, is rammed home so repeatedly that much of the last twenty minutes of the show were almost unnecessary.
Marks for consistency, however, and there’s something very theatrically absorbing about a relentless narrative that allows the audience to be captivated by a performance that provides much food for thought. Some of the plot is too predictable, and some of the minor characters underdeveloped. I was not particularly appreciative at all of the portrayal of characters from that general place that some Southerners deem ‘up North’ as well-meaning but otherwise obtuse, a point further compounded by Peter (Gianbruno Spena) separately claiming that London is so much more open-minded than the rest of the country. I am quite sure people of a sound mind can be found in any geographic region, and how ironic it is that such stereotypes are on display in a show that almost yells at its audience to not be so quick to judge, metaphorically speaking, books by their covers.
Perhaps the play is a victim of its own success? In its near-constant reiteration of the question ‘Who cares?’ I came away doing precisely that: not caring. The ending, abrupt as it is, both literally and figuratively reveals little. Played convincingly by Ilaria Ciardelli, the character of Blue does not wish to be defined as either male or female; make of that what you will in a world in which the American retail chain Target has introduced a “trans-inclusive bathroom policy”. Fortunately or unfortunately, Blue’s patterns of behaviour almost scream his/her gender, and I can only deduce from Peter’s continued inability to work this out that love sometimes really is blind.
I found the script to be unwieldy, with fleeting dismissiveness of Nazi Germany and organised religion thrown in the dialogue but not explored properly; instead, every time a conversation tries to go off on a different angle, the narrative quickly boomerangs back to the same question about whether Blue is a he or a she. I have to say I rather liked a punchline from Trevor (Duncan Mason) about whether Blue’s siblings were called Red and Green, and eventually found Blue’s moody whining to be irritating. Blue by name, blue by nature, y’see.
The music used during scene changes was very appropriate for the plot, and I was also impressed by Thomasin Lockwood’s rendering of multiple characters in various accents and inflections. The actors do their best with what they have to work with, but in the end I am not sure I really needed a whole show to preach at me not to make assumptions, even positive ones, about people based on their physical appearance alone.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Golden Age Theatre Company Presents: BOY STROKE GIRL
Can you fall in love with someone if you don’t know their gender?
Peter is about to find out when he falls for the sexually ambiguous ‘Blue’.
Their relationship poses a challenge to Peter’s identity, forcing him to face some difficult questions: To what extent are we all encouraged to conform to narrow culturally defined stereotypes, to label and to pigeon-hole ourselves?
Are these labels a form of straight jacket, by adapting to them do we compromise our true nature and can we defy the ultimate label of gender? Does this pressure to conform inevitably give rise to derision and hatred towards those who by choice or inclination, stand outside society’s norms?
Casting caution to the wind, Peter’s passion for Blue provokes prejudice and hostility from friends and family in a tale of sexual liberation and shattered taboos.
Written & Directed by Ian Dixon Potter and performed by Ilaria Ciardelli, Thomasin Lockwood, Gianbruno Spena and Duncan Mason.
BOY STROKE GIRL
20th September 2016 – 24th September 2016 at 7:00pm
above the Oxford Arms
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU