REVIEW: Boy Stroke Girl ★★

“Can you love someone without knowing their gender?” was the question framing this play by Golden Age Theatre Company. An interesting question tapping into the questions of gender and sexuality surrounding us and being brought to light in today’s media, I was incredibly intrigued to see how this question would inform the piece and whether it may make me question things further, considering I believe I already have a very liberal mind.

The play focuses on Peter (Gianbruno Spena), who meets the sexually ambiguous Blue (Ilaria Ciardelli) in a coffee shop. They talk excitedly about Doctor Who, and eventually begin a relationship. All the while, Peter has no idea what sex Blue is, and for his friends and parents, this is the cause of many a talk and argument. Peter grapples with all he has known being changed – for love?-  and begins to explore how much he has conformed to labels and stereotypes in the past.

My first thought when watching this play was whether it was a coincidence that the couple were named ‘Blue’ and ‘Peter’, perhaps alluding to the famous children’s television show which championed curiosity and discovery. Terrible pun on my part aside, the show began well by having Blue raising questions about conformity and labels, and by seeing the opposites to their views. However, this was the entire content for the ninety-minute performance. The performance revolved around people being confused by Blue,  Blue telling them (in a very Tumblr ‘Social Justice Warrior’ way) why they shouldn’t conform, and there being no real solution. Every time a solution was close, another argument between Blue and Peter would occur, and we’d be back to a mid-point in the plot again, which was disappointing. It felt rather like a Slinky: no matter how far the plot grew, it would always shrink back to where it started.

It would have been nice if the question of gender and labels was the context underlying another story, as opposed to being the entire plot. Perhaps because I am a young liberal-minded person (I noted the majority of the audience were middle-aged) I felt I was being told things I already knew as being stretched to think differently. Repetition of ideas, in this instance, lead to boredom rather than more curiosity. I think having these questions shoved down your throat within a naturalistic play would lead to people being affronted, as opposed to exploring it in their minds if hinted at.
There were some jokes in the script which were quite funny, though one risky one I felt myself say “ooh” at in which being bipolar was the punchline of being bi (instead of -sexual).

The actors did well with the script, such as (Thomasin Lockwood) playing three characters. At times, however, I felt her manners were forced, such as doing yoga poses whilst speaking as Blue’s studio partner Suzy; this just seemed unnecessary. What was also noted by myself was both of Duncan Mason’s roles (Duncan and Peter) took the conservative, negative approach towards Blue, whereas all of the female characters were more open to Blue’s sexual ambiguity. In a play which is so eager to tell us labels should be abolished, all of the men in the play were portrayed somewhat negatively (or is this something I have placed onto the text?).

The soundtrack was fun, though scene changes – which were small – were quite clunky and took longer than necessary. The play, as a whole, has a bit of work to do to stop it becoming repetitive and make the central characters of Blue and Peter somewhat likable in order to get the audience on side. That being said, I am happy this subject is being broached in theatre, and I am interested to see what older members of the audience thought.

Boy Stroke Girl is playing at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden from the 28th of February. More info can be found here.

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