Review: Boys tells us we haven't come so far after all

By Janet McAllister

Bronwyn Ensor is one of the young stars of Boys.
Bronwyn Ensor is one of the young stars of Boys.

This intense deconstruction of Foreskin's Lament reminds us why Greg McKee's classic 1981 critique of New Zealand's toxic masculinity is still acutely relevant today.

While the original focused on the fallout for broken rugby players, Eleanor Bishop's assured extension concentrates on the women disrespected off-field: given the Chiefs' scandal and even Ponytailgate, Boys tells us that we haven't come so far after all.

Written for Auckland Theatre Company's youth festival "Here & Now", Boys rides the current zeitgeist of self-consciously feminist works such as Silo Theatre productions Boys will be Boys and Revolt ... , as well as Power Ballad, the solo show of Bishop's co-director Julia Croft.

Boys is loud and angry, which is all to the good: Te Aihe Butler's throbbing, urgent sound design drives the show.

However, using a legal court set-up to emphasise blame, it's also preachy.

The female cast are invited to identify primarily as real-life (middle-class) victims, while the male cast are invited to confess misogyny.

Women's potential misogyny is ignored, and some underlying assumptions of rape culture - that men are naturally sexually assertive and women are not, for example - arguably go unchallenged.

The performances are high energy and excellent (Arlo Green spitting as Clean is the standout) and the work's structure is satisfying - difficult to pull off in a meta-work.

Wonderful moments include verbal replays and the interleaving of McGee's script and current scenarios, which nicely illuminates stubborn issues. Foreskin's own words are quoted back at him: what was he saying about his "blondes"?

He mixes metaphors to explain: "I slipped back into the language like a jigsaw."

It makes sense: our received patterns of thinking, our jigsaws of inherited culture, are the problem.

Ambitious, interesting and well-delivered, Boys examines several patriarchal jigsaw pieces - just don't take these pieces for the whole puzzle.

Theatre review

What: Boys

When: Ends today

Where: ASB Waterfront Theatre

- NZ Herald

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