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Boohai, Union Theatre

Devised by GoforBroke Theatre Company in association with AXIS Arts.
★★★

Pros: Funny and sometimes thought-provoking with good characterisation.

Cons: Action a little laboured at times.

Our Verdict: Solid debut for a new theatre group.

Can we ever really know someone? Can we ever truly know how anyone’s mind works? If we can’t, is it

Courtesy of The Union Theatre

worth the risk? That’s what Go for Broke Theatre group provocatively ask their audience to consider. ‘Boohai’ is the debut production from a newly formed group of students fresh from East 15 Acting School’s MA Course. Devised and written by the cast, it explores the difficulties of modern relationships. It looks at how often we lie to each other and ourselves. How we can tackle the minefield of issues we come to face. Is monogamy ever exciting enough? Does being hurt by someone give you the right to purposefully hurt another? Is honesty always the best policy? Can we survive without ever letting anyone in? Are we ready to protect ourselves if we do?

The Union Theatre in Southwark is a wonderfully bohemian little theatre with friendly staff and a cool little café bar which charmingly spills out into the street outside. Inside, the stage is small but perfectly formed. For this particular production, the space allowed the audience to see each other across the way as they contemplated the ideas thrown around in this one- off, hour long production.

Throughout, the small cast of five deliver good, comic performances with some excellent characterisation in places. The funniest and most convincing portrayal comes from Alexa Reed, who plays the main character/narrator. Opening and closing the piece with monologues, directly addressing the audience, she considers the perils of letting anyone too close. The sometimes messy, sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal outcomes, and explains why you might choose to keep everyone at arm’s length.

It’s cleverly staged, using every angle of the space to tell the characters stories. There are some very effective comic voiceovers of phone messages as the characters get dumped or pursued too keenly. At times the action does seem a little laboured. This could be due to the fact that the script is co-written by the cast so it’s not as tightly formed as it could be.

That said, a lot of the language used to describe the feelings of the characters as the plot unfolds is eloquent and spot on. The actors have had the chance to tell the story from their perspective which made it feel genuine and raw. There were phrases used which, once said, I instantly thought I’d like to remember because they captured the situation so perfectly.

There were some drawbacks. It wasn’t really explained why the title ‘Boohai’ was chosen and although some thought-provoking issues were raised, it felt a little underdeveloped in parts. It did leave me asking myself whether it could have delved further to expose the true nature of the human mind when it comes to relationships. The new company propose to help audiences confront colourful and complicated realities. Their style is described as messy and unafraid which is an intriguing approach. However some of the ‘messy realities’ presented could be seen as a little prosaic? Is it altogether shocking, for example, that after being spurned when an illicit affair is exposed, a publisher would decide to withdraw her support of her lover’s new book in retaliation? It felt at times that things which were meant to be shocking were given a little too much emphasis.

Overall, Boohai was a solid and very enjoyable debut from a talented new theatre company. I look forward to seeing more of their work.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!

Sadly, Boohai is no longer running but you can find out more information about this production here: http://www.goforbroketheatre.co.uk/

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