Last week the Tristan Bates Theatre hosted a production of Ian Dixon Potter’s Boy Stroke Girl, “a tale of sexual liberation and shattered taboos”.
The play follows Peter, who has a chance encounter in a café with someone called Blue – they seem to have a lot in common, so arrange to meet again. The pair spend more & more time together, eventually having to confront their developing feelings for each other. The only thing is, Peter has no idea what gender Blue actually is! This proves to be a bit of an obstacle, as Peter questions his principles, whilst facing prejudice from family & friends. Boy Stroke Girl attempts to tackle some big issues that are hot topics today. Do we label ourselves too much? What are the consequences? Does gender really matter?
To be honest, it’s a debate I tend to stay out of most of the time. I do think it’s unhelpful trying to label every last inch of your life, as there are always grey areas – but, at the same time, in some things it is inevitable. And more for simplicity than anything else. Dixon Potter’s script does quite well in this regard, as Blue makes the point that they just don’t want to label themselves, and would like a more accepting society. Blue is something of an idealist, and occasionally comes across as a bit pretentious – though I suppose it’s better to be liberal but sometimes pretentious than completely closed-minded.
There are very few props involved, and staging is minimal – in every scene there are six cube stools, which are constantly reconfigured, with the occasional extra (such as a magazine, or an artist’s portfolio). This allows the writing & acting to really take centre stage. The transitions between scenes could do with being a little quicker, as it is simply moving the stools around while topical pop music (such as Aerosmith’s Dude Looks Like A Lady) blares out. The creative team has done well to put together a costume for Blue that is highly ambiguous; initially it seems quite tomboyish, but it’s also suggestive of a slightly more feminine boy. The rest of the characters simply wear ‘regular’ clothing, with good work making Katrina Allen & Duncan Mason’s multiple roles look distinct from each other.
Allen & Mason do well to bring their supporting characters to life, most notably as Peter’s friends (Sarah & Ron). Both are curious about his choices, though Ron is slightly less accepting than Sarah. This also plays out the same way when they play Peter’s parents, Cath & Trevor. The bulk of the comedy comes from Mason, delivering his characters’ outdated opinions bluntly but brilliantly.
There is an honesty in Gianbruno Spena’s performance as Peter. The situation he encounters is not particularly common, or at least not well heard of, but his actions come across as entirely believable.
Lai-Si Lassalle manages to capture Blue’s spirit, embodying both the traditionally masculine and feminine traits to show the ambiguity that makes Blue the person they are.
My verdict? A thought-provoking play with important themes and impressive performances.
Boy Stroke Girl ran at Tristan Bates Theatre from 30 May-4 June 2016.