100 years since the outbreak of World War I we are still asking ourselves the same questions about war. What do people fight for? Why do they fight?

This is precisely what Boy (directed by Nick Connaughton and Tony Adigun) tries to find out in a contemporary production based on the true story of Jack Cornwall. This young boy from East London ‘did extraordinary things and paid the ultimate sacrifice’.

The performance is short, but far from sweet. The story attempts to be gritty and deep, but unfortunately it is actually disjointed and dull. The majority of the words are lost beneath the music and what can be made out is all but inaudible.

The characters have no names, presumably to show that this could happen to anyone, but it was actually quite annoying that the mother (Chloe Jones) calls her son (Dayyaan Nordien) ‘Boy’ – no wonder he wanted to leave her and join the Navy!

To its credit the dancing (choreographed by Tony Adigin) is really good and all three are very talented dancers (although there is a lot of rolling about on the floor). Some of the story is told through this medium alone and the training dance scenes are well-choreographed and performed. The final scene could perhaps have been a bit more powerful and dramatic, but the meaning was clear.

Acting is poor, with no expression in the delivery at all. Botis Seva can perhaps be forgiven for this as the sergeant – he just shouts aggressively. It also seems improbable that a 14 year old would be allowed to join the navy… Especially one who still plays with paper boats and apparently does nothing but help his mum in the house.

In one scene the audience are dragged out to dance and this is a bit of a shambles; it adds nothing to the piece and is just a bit awkward.

The concept of Boy is a good one – combining events of 1914 and 2014 and performing them in a contemporary way. However, it feels rushed and the acting and dancing are worlds apart which makes the whole piece unbalanced and disappointing.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes


Boy is playing in Studio 2 at the Arcola Theatre until 26 July 2014. Click here for more information and to book tickets.