FRINGE REVIEW – Belt Up’s The Boy James (C Soco)

*****

9 – 29 August (some dates only)
1200-1300, C Soco

The loss of childhood innocence hangs in the darkened room, with a heavy inevitability that we can almost taste. From the second we enter Belt Up’s House Above at C Soco, we know this can only end one way.

Inspired by the early life of JM Barrie, The Boy James is a tender, haunting and heartrending piece, set in the low-key surroundings of James’ drawing room. The space is filled not only with objects and mementos from his childhood, but also with his closest boyhood chum, a naive innocent clad in pyjamas who enthusiastically encourages us all to play as he excitedly waits for his beloved James’ arrival.

From the moment he enters, James brings a sombre mood to the already eerie and dreamlike surroundings. In a fabulously low-key and understated performance, James Wilkes portrays the lead as a caring yet resigned youth on the edge of manhood, tortured by his memories and by the realities of life he is beginning to experience.

Veronica Mary-Hare is also excellent as an interloper, personifying the gulf which threatens the two boys’ already straining relationship. Her part is mostly symbolic, yet she breathes siren-like life into her character as she uses feminine guile and charm to add an electrifying sexual charge to the atmosphere.

As with all Belt Up’s productions, the audience are as much part of things as the actors themselves. By being encouraged to take part, we are drawn into the emotion ourselves, willing things to be different and wishing – as the characters do – for time to stand still.

The Boy James features a couple of scenes and lines of dialogue which make it unsuitable for a younger audience. But – for anyone who has experienced the searing pain of putting aside childish things forever – it is one of the most touching, moving and superbly-realised pieces of immersive theatre you will see this year, from a company who have captured and tamed the spirit of the Fringe.

Ticket details are available on the Fringe website.

Review by Keith D

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