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7 May 2009
After enjoying Tommy Kearney's last play at the Union - Madonna and Me - I was looking forward to his next offering, Little Boy. Kearney often revisits his own childhood in Liverpool for subject source so I knew I was in for a bit of Scouse humour.
It starts at a school reunion with the protagonists catching up on each others lives: one has moved to Birmingham where she is the victim of domestic violence, another has four kids and Michelle now dresses as a man and goes by the name of Michael.
After setting up this scene we are quickly taken back to their schooldays to discover how they became the adults they are. In class they banter about being in love with Suggs as Suzanne hides the black eyes gained from her father and Michelle wants to wear boxer shorts instead of knickers and have Brian as her confirmation name. 'She's a tomboy' says Miss Clemson, 'she'll grow out of it.' We watch as the girls try to grow into young women while coping with the everyday problems that come with adolescence, plus those more difficult struggles that define us as people: our sexuality, our family and loved ones dying.
Chuck plenty of that Catholic nonsense in the mix and you get plenty of messed up people.
Miss Clemson is one of those teachers that we always remember, who were different from the rest, who seemed to have exciting lives outside of the classroom. Miss Clemson wore CND badges, went on marches and protested at Greenham Common. Miss Clemson inspired the girls to be more politically aware.
Amusing at times, Little Boy is a slow burn that brings back memories of school days and school trips and school teachers, and has a surprise - but gentle - tearjerker scene near the end; made more real as it is obviously based on a true story.
Little Boy doesn't always seem to know where it is going, hence I struggled to know where the focus was. Was it about Micky/Michelle(Little Boy)? Miss Clemson? Nuclear weapons? Violence against women? Or just a rites of passage play? It has a shotgun approach of firing many themes, all of which would have made excellent plays on their own, so we were hit by them all, but not enough to bother us.
Even so, I did enjoy it as there was great work from the cast who were all in top form under the guidance of Steve Miller's directing. Plus, like a CD bonus track, the programme gives a recipe for Scouse, which is basically a stew, but then says have it with beetroot or red cabbage! Nitto! No wonder they all talk funny up there.
In the bar I was asked how many stars I would give it out of five. I'd give it three. It's a nice piece of work.
Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London, SE1 until 16 May
Box Office: Tel: 020 7261 9876 - £12 (Cons £10)
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