THEATRE Review : Boys Don’t – A Papertale production in association with Apples and Snakes – Half Moon Theatre  

 Rooted in the concept of performance poetry Boys Don’t presents three gut-wrenching monologues exploring the idea that boys and men really do need to be able to express their feelings – by crying, if necessary. As one of them asserts firmly “Sometimes boys cry”. Each man – yes, it’s an all male cast and justifiably so – is a talented poet/actor who has written, and performs, a story from the point of view of a young person. Much of it is inspired by the writer’s personal experience so the authenticity is palpable.

Justin Coe, for instance, recalls crying a lot as a child and finally feeling exonerated only on seeing his stiff-upper-lip, macho grandfather weeping at his wife’s funeral. Coe has woven this into an intensely thoughtful account of a family in which all the males for many generations were “hard men, scarred men, always-on-their-guard men”. Each monologue is written in free flowing, occasionally rhymed verse. Coe’s is more obviously poetic than the other two.

Hadiru Mahdi’s contribution presents a boy starting secondary school and struggling with “mixed signals.” He ends up in a playground fight because he can’t express what he really feels. The conversation with his mother at the end of it is breathtakingly truthful. Mahdi is very good at role switching in order to keep the narrative flowing coherently.

Tanaka Mhishi’s character is inclined to get angry and violent at home while his parents have problems of their own. In the end his mother gives him a notebook and tells him to write his passion out of his system. Like the other two, it’s a poignantly compelling piece of acting.

A simple, set free show, its only prop is a huge tube which makes a rain-like sound when tilted passed between actors like a baton. Boys Don’t might have worked even better without this rather contrived linking device and the pointless prologue which repeats as an epilogue but it’s a minor quibble.

Review by Susan Elkin