The Boys – A Gritty “Whydunnit” Drama

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by Debra Hely

I was at the Opening Night of The Boys at NTC. What a brilliant piece of theatre! If you enjoy robust theatre that digs into society’s issues and can cope with language, you won’t want to miss this production.

This strong play written by Gordon Graham, introduces us to the Sprague family: the matriarch Sandra (Cheryl Sovechles) and her three sons, Brett (Michael Byrne), Glenn (Craig Lindeman) and Stevie (Duncan Gordon). Each of her boys has a girlfriend, Michelle (Amy Wilde), Jackie (Natasha Steggles) and Nola (Cherie MacKinnon).

Even though as the photographer, I was fortunate enough to witness several rehearsals, my lens-based focus meant I had missed action that happened outside my peripheral gaze, not to mention the subtleties of the script. Sitting in the audience, thinking I already knew what I was going to see, I was quickly blown away by the impact of seeing and hearing everything at once. Nothing replaces the impact of strong meaty drama being acted out live on stage.

This production, directed by John Wood comes across as a genuine ensemble piece, from the robust and believable (often scary) character portrayals to everything that the entire creative team also contributed, including the set, costuming, lights, sound and so forth. Everyone who contributed must be very proud of how all the work has come together in this gripping drama.

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Yes, the language is as foul as one would expect from violent misogynistic men who are overloaded with hate and resentment seeking someone or something to blame for their circumstances. The only solution they seem to understand is a physical and brutal one.

The violence is for the most part confined to the audience’s imagination. However, a few scenes give hints of what is going to manifest such as when two of the brothers scuffle and the girlfriends are subjected to nasty verbal onslaughts and the occasional off stage biff. Amazingly, the mother insists that she brought her boys up to love and respect women. She constantly indulges their whims and tantrums, accepting this aberrant behaviour as normal and typical of men.

The audience is treated as intelligent, and lots of questions are raised. Is the cause of such heartless violence to women due to a cycle of poverty? A lack of education? A broken family? Childhood abuse? Drugs? Alcohol? Or even men egging each other on to fit into their macho ideals that demean women? Or is it due to combinations of these factors? Or other circumstances altogether? The audience observes, reacts and then starts to think. There was a lot of discussion in foyer after the play finished.

We see how the women rally to defend their menfolk, only to slowly accept the truth as it emerges. These truths impact them on ways they don’t understand, in particular why the public blames them as much as the boys. Emotionally, the only way they can survive is to stick together. Scared, lost and bewildered, they start to question how they can raise a boy so that when he’s a man, he won’t go down the same path as his father.

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This powerful piece of theatre had the audience appreciating the moments of humour, but mostly we were spellbound, only able to breathe freely again at curtain call, when we enthusiastically clapped as hard as we could. The commitment to their part by each and every actor was one of the major strengths of this production.

Yes, I’m biased. I’m a member of NTC, I’m on the Committee and last year I was on the panel doing the play selection for this year. I’m not only biased, I’m very proud. This season of NTC has been diverse, powerful and engaging with many excellent performances / directing / sets / costuming / singing / and plays that can make you laugh, cry, tap your feet, or even think – in other words be moved. And we still have two more plays in the season.

The Boys is on right now; the last performance is on the 18 October. Contact the theatre, via the office, online or Facebook. If you have a social conscience and like your drama meaty, you must see it.

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