“Our vices shape our happiness,” muses William, in the first of many direct addresses to the audience in Will Power, a brief and unnerving (in a good way) show. All the males in this family have, by way of a bizarre tradition, William as their given name on their birth certificates, but there are ways of distinguishing one from another, such that the four brothers on stage are, in no particular order, William, Will I Am, Will and Willy; their father goes by Bill. And as one could reasonably expect with this kind of set-up, there’s some fun to be had in telling one apart from another, particularly in conversations with people outside the immediate family.
The show starts before it starts, with bubbles (yes, bubbles) galore being blown about by the performers, and then by members of the audience, or at least those who had cottoned onto the idea that the little party bubble bottles on the seats were meant to be deployed then and there. The context here is the West Ham United Football Club anthem, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, and while there were some fleeting references to sporting fixtures later in the show, West Ham United is never explicitly referred to ever again past the opening scene. But it was a novel way, mind you, of breaking the ice, though not everyone took kindly to being encouraged into bubble blowing quite so loudly.
It does get a little repetitive – at one point, everyone is telling everyone to ‘f– – off’, only for nobody to leave the stage. A number of critical incidents disrupt the flow of the narrative – such is their impact – but as each one is relatively similar, the plotline as a whole becomes increasingly dubious, until whichever William it is blurts out that the version of events the audience has just seen and heard was significantly embellished.
This naturally led me to try to consider the motive behind this, but before I could arrive at some sort of explanation, William simply admits to, in summary, having a flawed personality. The play seems to suggest that what may have been considered harmless banter in previous generations actually does have a negative, even catastrophic, effect on a person. Is it that people are more sensitive these days? The lack of political correctness in some of the putdowns in this play is, truthfully, refreshing.
A bedroom scene feels more like a time-filler than anything else, as is a dance sequence in which a fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) member of the audience is serenaded and then persuaded to get up and engage in a slow dance. There is, however, a good level of engagement with the audience.
The performances were hammed up a tad too much for my liking but the comedy value is nonetheless strong. The scene changes are well-coordinated, with the action kept flowing smoothly either through narration and description and/or inventive use of props.
The play felt rather underdeveloped, ending abruptly (and, very oddly, without bows). If I hadn’t known any better I might have assumed that when the house lights came back on it was only for the interval. Perhaps the same ‘day in the life of’ from the different Williams might have made the show deeper and multi-layered. As it is, it’s a tale of men with reasonably comfortable lives describing first world problems. It has the potential to be considerably more than that.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“We are all trying to find that little ounce of joy that makes you want to wake up the next day. whether that is going home to a beautiful family and eating a Chinese takeaway. whether that is meeting friends for one drink which ends up being nine vodka cokes, one mixed kebab and an overpriced taxi to Jennifer’s as she has a hot tub and a dancemat”
Toby Boutall’s debut play centred around masculinity stigmas and male mental health joins us for an exclusive 4 performances.
by Toby Boutall