Theatre503, London – until 2 June 2018
Bobby’s a bright, enterprising young man, so when his dad demands he get a job and do something with his life other than getting stoned, he does. Desperate to impress his elders but with little sense for his actions’ consequences, Bobby’s series of bad decisions leads to catastrophe. But this new play, laden with thematic complexity, cuts the story short before it has the chance to fully resonate.
It’s difficult for plays with all-white, all-male casts to be relevant any more – a good thing – but the script’s critical view of toxic masculinity and the complexity of father/son relationships are topical and engaging. The sophistication of these themes’ interplay with social class, youth culture and power dynamics makes for a finely tuned narrative, but it ends too soon. Though there is a fitting climax, the longed-for resolution never comes and the next big decision that Bobby must make is left unseen. It’s frustrating, but there is certainly room for lengthening Phil Ormrod’s narrative.
The cast of four is universally strong. Guy Porritt as Bobby’s police officer father has a quiet, calm authority but still possesses the hint of a sharp edge. He nicely contrasts Ian Burfield, Bobby’s boss at the salvage yard, who is much more of a hard man. Both display believable relationships with those playing their sons, Charles Furness as Bobby and Kenny Fullwood as Chris. These latter two have a great journey from wary competition to genuine care and friendship.
Ormrod has a strong concept that he largely executes well with nuance, and his commentary is important in a landscape coming to terms with its ingrained, unhealthy expectations of men and boys. With some extra material added onto the end, it would widen the lens to include the wider implications of these characters’ actions and add further weight to a promising story.