Pros: Harriet Walter and Guy Paul shine in this heartfelt two-hander. The temporal story is concisely portrayed on the compact set thanks to the tight stage direction and lighting techniques.
Cons: I found none, however, the retelling of a life together may not be dynamic enough for some audiences.
Personally, I am delighted to see a play centred around a middle age couple that is not about power and money or a farcical comedy. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places but there just doesn’t appear to be enough meaningful, relevant writing about the wealth of experiences and life stories that people ‘of a certain age’ have to share. Boa is one such play. It’s a touching reflection on the relationship between Boa, a British dancer turned choreographer and her American foreign correspondent husband, Louis. We are walked through the story of their time together from meeting to parting via a series of flashbacks, skilfully denoted by changes in lighting and demeanour. They come together then fall apart – alcoholism, family, jealousy and health issues take them away from each other.
Harriet Walter and Guy Paul are truly resplendent in their roles, drawing the audience into the characters and the story. After seeing Walter play masculine roles in the recent all female Shakespeare productions, it was stunning to see her portray the fragile and feminine Boa, showcasing her versatility and talent. Paul, in contrast, saunters with a confidence and charisma that carries Louis as the perfect steadfast partner to Boa’s flighty, crumbling persona. The pair are married off stage, and the chemistry between them on the stage is incandescent. There were tears in the audience, testimony to the conviction to character Walter and Paul achieve through their performance.
The magic of Clara Brennan’s writing lies in the realisation that the story is told through Boa’s eyes, making Louis’s flawed perfection explicable and beautiful at the same moment. Though touching, this story is not romanticised and soppy, the troubled imperfections bring stark realism and empathy adding humour, anger and tears. I loved the switches from present to past that, as it draws nearer, reveals the shifts in the relationship and the torments of them both. It is such a graceful piece of writing, it ebbs and flows its way to the conclusion which was unforeseen and poignant.
The stage direction is impeccable and the simply set, compact space of studio 2 at Trafalgar Studios was utilised masterfully. It’s a great venue for quality theatre with top drawer casts, friendly staff and that West End buzz, but the bar prices are eye-wateringly West End, so I’d recommend pre-theatre drinks at a nearby pub. That said I wouldn’t have missed Boa and I can thoroughly recommend it.
Director: Hannah Price
Set Design: Anthony Lamble
Costume Design: Jenny Beavan
Lighting Design: Malcolm Rippeth
Sound Design: Dave Price
Producer: Moya Productions
Booking until: 7th March 2015
Booking link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/boa/trafalgar-studios/#buy-now