This story of belonging starts with Boy (Bayo Gbadamosi), dancing. As he yearns for something better from life, his path towards fulfillment is constantly thwarted by his urban surroundings. The final moment of Gbolahan Obisesan’s award-winning play leaves hanging in the air the question of whether Boy can find the moral courage to pull himself out of the cesspit his Dad (Jason Barnett) sees only too clearly.
In well-defined scenes, the clipped poetic dialogue bounces back and forth like a ball that not even the school counsellor (Simon Darwen) can catch. The possibilities the school sees for Boy’s life seem endless. David W Kidd’s stark lighting design flashes between pure white and cold blue as the unfolding story becomes more colourful. The school counsellor tries to ‘adjust the attitude’ of the Boy, who thinks ‘teacher is a walk over like a Persian rug’ and that ‘snitches get stitches’. Words are so precisely chosen by Obisesan that in 50 minutes this short play covers a lot of ground.
A crime has been committed at school, forcing Boy to decide between his friends and his family. In the last half of the play the Dad’s emotional journey dominates the action; he admits he smacks the Boy, now feeling bad for letting the Boy down, and exclaiming ‘my son’s not dying, not at his age!’.
Echoes of Rex Obano’s play Slaves come through in Ria Parry’s crisp direction here. The cast sit facing the fourth wall in pairs, playing their roles directly to the audience. The family dynamics of regret are reminiscent of those in Bola Agbaje’s play Gone Too Far. The rhythm of the language in Mad About The Boy is, however, original to the sharp witty writing of Obisesan. Perhaps the once-forbidden message veiled in the same-titled Noel Coward song rings true now more than ever; Boy remarks that an ‘outcast don’t last’, and has to talk in code to belong. If he could speak honestly, his life might follow a different path - but naked truth is dangerous in Boy’s world after he witnesses a crime being committed.
The show begins with carefree beat boxing and dancing on stage and ends with the cast of three leaving Dad alone in the shadows of a remand unit visiting room wringing his hands. It is just as well that Dad has something to do with his fingers, as he is not allowed to touch his son if Boy wants to belong with the fellow inmates. Iron Shoes Theatre Company totally transforms this performance space into the world of the Boy using only two plastic chairs. You can't ask for more than that.