The Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre is one of those classic fringe venues with very little soundproofing from the outside world and remarkably uncomfortable seats: a show there needs to be something special to transport you from the sounds of a Saturday night in Wimbledon and increasingly numb buttocks. Throw in a train strike and lack of District Line tube and it’s all putting a lot of pressure on the show. Luckily, The Boys did not disappoint.
Imagine your classic 1960s kitchen sink drama, throw in three millennial men, London rent prices and the extortionate cost of a coffee, and you’ve got The Boys. Will Charlton’s play is very funny; in-fact for most of the first half there are guffaws from throughout the audience at least every five minutes or so. The script is hilarious, but add the dynamics of the men sharing a flat (you can almost smell it) and the play buzzes with humour, chemistry, and frivolity. That is, until the second half. The tone shifts, it becomes shockingly dark quite suddenly, and the earlier laughs seem to hang in the air, as the audience catches their breath at the horror that is revealed. It takes a true work of mastery from both playwright and actors to create such a striking move.
The cast are exceptional; there isn’t a weak link in this team of three. Each character is remarkably fully formed and you feel like you’ve known them for years. In fact, watching them play a Fifa tournament brings back some stark memories from my early 20s, when male house mates would obsess over this mysterious game. Rhys Tees is a comedy mastermind. He plays the slightly idiotic Daniel with real heart, so you can’t help but love him. Chris Austin is more sensible as Simon, the only one with a job for a while, and his performance at the end of the show is heart-breaking to watch. Playwright Will Charlton plays Miles, a tricky character, provoking interesting questions on culpability when bad things happen. At first the men seem easy to understand, but as the story develops their complexity comes to light, through the genius of the script and the quality of the cast.
This isn’t a short play, at over two hours with an interval, but the dynamism of the cast drives the narrative with a startling pace and energy. The fact that there’s only one obvious line slip up is remarkable, and it’s a very natural dialogue that is delivered with perfect timing. The play both flies by and leaves a lasting impact. It raises questions of how far you’d go for money, and what happens when your ‘get rich quick’ scheme backfires. Yet at its core is a beautiful depiction of male friendship, the bravado, and the emotional heart when things get tough.
Written by: Will Charlton
Produced by: Sycamore House Productions
The Boys played as part of New Wimbledon Theatre Studio’s From The Fringe season, and was on for one night only.