New online theatre material keeps popping up all the time – or at least it eventually comes to my attention which amounts to much the same thing; this latest one did so by a somewhat circuitous route. My Boy Danny played at this year’s recent Camden Fringe as an online stream, but I managed to muddle the dates and therefore missed it. However, an audio version, recorded last year and using the same cast, also exists so that seemed to solve that particular problem.
The play is written by Alfie James, author of over 50 pieces, who has been pursuing a course of audio recordings more recently, all of which can be found on his website. Quite a few of these, including some family oriented material, are adaptations of existing work but this particular piece is an original which has at its heart a mystery about a teenager’s death – the Danny of the title.
Bereaved mother Ange is concerned that she is being stalked; a shadowy figure has been hanging around outside her house ever since her son’s demise and that was nearly a year ago. And so, she decides to confront both the lurking figure and her demons whereupon the pieces of the jigsaw start falling into place for the characters and the listener. The figure turns out to be Danny’s friend Rory who is also dealing with a level of grief at his loss. Just how deep becomes apparent as the play progresses although the denouement doesn’t really come as that much of a surprise.
It’s a slightly raw recording but that’s acknowledged in the accompanying blurb and as this was never supposed to be the “product outcome” it’s entirely forgivable. However, the basic structure did puzzle somewhat. There are some lengthy pieces of dialogue between the two characters which are punctuated by pieces of moody music even though what the pair are saying is (more or less) continuous.
I think the intent here is to highlight the various revelations and allow pauses for audience reflection, but I felt that this gives the piece an almost soap operaish quality with the musical stings akin to the famous climactic EastEnders douf doufs. They also break the developing tension; I feel these sections would be better played continuously with more trust placed in the listener as to what is significant and without the need for underlining key points.
There are also several monologues which, while sparkily delivered and give pause for thought, do not seem to flow naturally from the character (e.g., Ange’s rant about a driver in a supermarket car park). These are also used to make some generally political points which emerge from the dialogue more naturally elsewhere. There is a third character, Leah, who appears briefly a couple of times but I didn’t find the inclusion really helped the narrative significantly; perhaps this aspect needs a rethink.
Vocally the actors deliver well enough to create character pictures in the audience’s mind although presumably at the time of recording there was still some development to take place in order to reach a polished finish. Kitty Whitley as Ange comes over as someone outwardly holding it all together while still struggling with the loss – particularly when we learn of the manner of her son’s parting. Ben Kinsman gives a fine and nuanced account of Rory who is more reticent at first to discuss his friend and how he met his end and is harbouring more than a few secrets of his own. Kinsman delivers a fine, almost poetic, speech about the two young men as children one never ending summer summer which is full of yearning for both the season and his ex-companion. Atarah as Leah does what she can to make her character live – but please see above.
This play deals with some important issues and lives up to expectations. If you’d like to see it as a live piece that’s happening in October at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town. Otherwise, the audio version can be freely accessed via the company website or on their You Tube channel (see below). They have also just released an audio version of their 2010 play Women In War and a new short digital piece for the online Watford Fringe, Ruptured Duck, started yesterday. Busy times for an enterprising outfit!