This is a review that has been complicated by a couple of factors. Firstly, the show started very late, with the audience sat there waiting for ages as the tech was brought back online. This, of course, can’t be helped and I wouldn’t want to judge a show by it. But it doesn’t leave you in the best mood to start with.
The second and far more interesting factor is that my Sister (who accompanied me to the show) and I had very different reactions to the piece. I was discomforted by it. My sister loved it. We discussed these differences all the way home. Which in many ways is the sign of an interesting show. But… But… But.. I have reservations.
Irina (Aimée Kelly) is a photographer and bar worker. She is a haphazard person with hints throughout her narrative of disordered eating, drug abuse and heavy drinking. She is also not a particularly reliable narrator so it is hard to always know where the real Irina Irina the heroine of her own story meet.
Some things do seem to hold up. Her life is tinged with violence (largely from her) and rage (also her own). Her few friends are clearly concerned (as this is a one woman show, she chooses to mock this concern). Her life might be spinning out of control, or it might just be what she is and wants to be like.
Her photography is dark, sexual and exploitative. This, more than anything else, was what discomforted me. Irina crosses lines that no one should cross. Yes occasionally it felt that this exploitation and line crossing was being celebrated because Irina was a woman doing it to men. As a lifelong feminist, I don’t think the pinacle of equality is getting to be (and celebrate being) as awful as the worst of men. As I said to my sister – if we’d seen that exact same play with the gender roles reversed, how much would you still have enjoyed it? I found that question and the answer we both came to that it would be a lot less really uncomfortable.
Kelly’s performance was a tour-de-force. She’s a compelling actress who embodied the part of Irina perfectly. While she stumbled occasionally with lines she never stumbled with the far more important job of projecting character. As such whatever I felt about the storyline I couldn’t fault the performance. The main house at Soho theatre is a big room and – as mentioned at the top, one that had grown restless at the extended wait at the start. To then come on and hold the room so perfectly was a seriously impressive feat.
Overall, I came away full of perturbation and questions and my sister full of fire and energy. Either way, Boy Parts definitely left its mark on us.