Leo Butler’s Boy is a work that speaks candidly of issues surrounding the contemporary urban condition, through the eyes of 17 year old drop-out Liam; an anxious adolescent, Liam struggles to communicate with figures of authority and is fundamentally isolated. Performed on a perpetually moving figure-of-eight conveyor belt at Islington’s Almeida, the play seamlessly moves between gravity-defying commuters, doctor’s offices, street corners, bus shelters and job centres.
This is a jarringly honest portrayal of London consumerism and its effect on social divisions. Whilst undeniably humorous in parts, a sad stagnation is reflected as Liam walks against the movement of the conveyor belt. Liam’s destructive inclinations and vain attempts to mark his name with his finger on the glass of a bus shelter seem to pronounce his own struggle of finding a place in a city of conflicts. The anti-climactic odyssey to Sports Direct to track down former school mates results in further aimless wandering and police encounters. Crucially phone-less in an environment wholly driven by technology, Liam is pushed further onto the fringes of society.
Homelessness is present throughout the play and juxtaposes the stark social divides synopsised in the absurd pantomime of the Underground. Raising issues of youth unemployment, the social implications of the ‘fit to work’ bill, nationwide library closures, zero hour contracts, binge drinking and immigration it is a deeply political piece which Butler first drafted in 2011 and chimes with the times. It speaks of a city in internal conflict. Stand-out performances include Frankie Fox in his stage debut as Liam, as well as another debut from Bayleigh Gray as Liam’s sister, Mysha.
A powerful comment on city-living and social inequality, Boy places the spotlight on the seclusion of individuals in an urban environment.
Leo Butler’s Boy is currently at the Almeida theatre running from the 5th April to 28th May.