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A LOCAL BOY – Pleasance Theatre, London.

LocalBoy_WebGenericHow well do parents know their children? How well do teenagers know themselves? And how well do they know each other? With an incisive, cutting and disturbing power, the deeply provocative A Local Boy summons just as many questions as the answers it provides.

A multi-strand story opens with a policewoman working the phones at the emergency call centre. Call after call floods in with nary an emergency, but plenty of time wasted. The scene flicks to a teenage boy and girl communicating through the internet. They flirt and fuss with the short hand vernacular familiar with the present day. Their tentative verbal dance is at once fumbling and bracingly direct as they navigate their way through new-found sensations. Soon, we find out that a charred body has been found next to the war memorial in Romford. Who is this victim? Why were they murdered?

The work is the culmination of eleven months of research and development from the writer in residency at Islington’s Pleasance Theatre, Dan Murphy. The extensive gestation period has ensured a script that races with an urgent vibrancy. The content is littered with humour, which fades slowly away to reveal a sad, morose and dolorous truth about the modern milieu in this tech-dependent age.

A strength of the production is the rumbling, escalating tension and suspense. It is one that is eked out with judicious composure and tight measure. The cogs turn with a commendable efficacy. Marvel is sourced from the realisation of just how tightly organised the release of information is. There is an episodic feel to the scenes, as each section cuts to black. This can, at times, steer matters dangerously close to soap opera territory, especially in the relationship between the two police officers. This is evaded by the resonance of the subject matter and how it is handled in the round.

Chiming with the work of rising London talent Andrew Maddock (whose The Me Plays offered an effective, albeit less grave, monologue on common travails in the modern era), Murphy’s material skilfully locks focus on the concept of viral videos, selfies, teenage sexual awakening and parental concern. A thumping soundtrack aids the production and the performances are uniformly affecting; working both as a collective and individually.

A Local Boy has complimentary echoes of the novel We Need To Talk About Kevin, and it is a startling work that pummels audiences with the nagging sense that this work of fiction could very well be rooted in fact. Bold, exciting and thought-provoking, this is visceral theatre that defies you not to have an in-depth post-show discussion.

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Reviewed 20/02/2015

By Greg Wetherall

Until 21st February 2015
Pleasance Theatre, London, N7.

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