Edinburgh Fringe 2011
In this new and very timely play, we see how a young man rejects being a “good” member of society in favour of gratification, stubbornly rejecting offers of help from his elders, who come to the problem with very different points of view.
Mad About the Boy puts a harsh interrogation light on some of the problems facing the youth of Britain today. The boy in the story (Bayo Gbadamosi) is the son of an immigrant (Cyril Nri) – his dad loves him and doesn’t understand why he’s disconnected from the community they’ve become part of, and struggles to understand the mores of the new society he lives in. The boy has a simmering rage, mixed with a childish impishness and fear of authority and punishment, which results in him being, as he calls himself, “bad”. The school counsellor (Jamie Michie) tries to get through to father and son as openly as he can, but being a well-adjusted middle-class man, there’s something stopping him from understanding the particularly complex situation of the immigrant, and also stopping the boy opening up to him.
The script, written by Gbolahan Obisesan is incredibly complex, and lyrically plays with the many layers of sense and connotations in certain words and phrases, each characters’ line overlapping the next like waves of different meanings, understandings and intentions. There are only the tiniest of falterings by the actors, who manage this script deftly and with a great depth of feeling.
The crux of the play comes when the boy is witness to – but not part of – an act of violence. In perhaps the most poignant play on meanings, he protests that he did “nothing” – he did nothing physically wrong, but in not participating in the violence, he is just as complicit by allowing it to happen. Is he evading punishment or vaguely regretting his lack of action? It’s difficult to tell, but the fall-out may have dire and tragic consequences for the trajectory his life will take.
With so much rhetoric about “broken” and “bruised” Britain in the papers and from politicians and commentators, this play is a truly timely piece of work, truly capturing the zeitgeist of some of the darker aspects of life in England. It doesn’t provide a solution to the problem but it certainly reminds us that the problem needs a lot more than top-down intervention to be fixed.