Belt Up’s ‘The Boy James’

Last night, I took my girlfriend to see the play that made Stephen Fry cry.

I’ve been a big fan of Belt Up Theatre for a long time now, ever since hearing of their Women of Troy from the Edinburgh Fringe 2008, and subsequently seeing them and their “Squat” at the Fringe in 2009. There, I was lucky enough to experience their Dreamscapes twice. They were unforgettable experiences, which still come back to me when I write or toy with concepts of legerdemain. I urge you to see them wherever possible.

Belt Up’s theatre is incredible: their focus on audience impact (largely through audience interaction) is unlike anything else I have seen in the realm of theatre – albeit a common and successful (if necessary!) trope of platform magic. I would go so far as to say that I consider Belt Up’s work true theatrical magic.

The play is dark, and strange, and either manifestative or symbolic, or both. Or neither. Perhaps the part I most enjoy when thinking about one of their plays is the question of what role the audience play. I’m not entirely sure if we were meant to be imagining of the blissful young boy James (at least, at its outset), or legitimately present.

However, the journey home had my girlfriend and I mostly talking about the (warped?) character of the girl. Agressive and sexualised, we were not sure if she was real or imagined. Our conclusion (mostly drawn from our respective study of Victorian literature and culture) was that the play represents the imaginings of the boy James – that he still appears to himself as young as he feels, whilst might instead have physically aged, thus bringing with it the hormones and effects of an older boy. We thought the agression came from this, and the disturbing sequence where the girl is demanding of the boy James’ “attention”, we decreed to be manifest masturbation guilt.

My other suggestion was that she was a succubbus, but that arises from nowhere in particular. (Other than the Otherworld.)

Either way, the play was decidedly moving. We might not have had to dry our eyes at the end, but we definitely had to steel our hearts.

The play? Recommended.

The company? Required.

Belt Up’s ‘The Boy James’

One thought on “Belt Up’s ‘The Boy James’

  1. archaism says:

    I’m really so pleased to see such a high number of views on this column – an unprecidented opening two days, followed by my best subsequent view rates yet.

    I know you’re reading this – let me know what you think, either in comment format, or link me to your reviews!

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