Boys From the Blackstuff

Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Garrick Theatre, London
Cast: George Caple, Dominic Carter, Helen Carter, Aron Julius, Nathan McMullen, Lauren O’Neil, Jamie Peacock, Barry Sloane, Liam Tobin and Mark Womack

Chrissie, Loggo, George, Dixie and Yosser are used to hard work and providing for their families. But there is no work and there is no money. What are they supposed to do? Work harder, work longer, buy cheaper, spend less? They just need a chance.

Boys From the Blackstuff
is based on the British television series by Alan Bleasdale, which then was adapted for the stage by James Graham. This production directed by Kate Wasserberg and is currently showing at the Garrick Theatre in London's West End, until 3rd August. This comes after a previous run at the National Theatre which was hugely successful. 

I went in completely blind to the show and had little idea as to what this play or story would be about, but after leaving the show, I can tell you this show will stick with me like the blackstuff. An incredibly raw, powerful show which gives a real insight into what life was like back in the 80’s, with five star performances from all of the cast throughout.

The acting from the ten actors onstage is truly outstanding. They complement each other's performances well and you can see how much hard work has gone into making these performances as exceptional as they can be. This cast is such a strong unit and you can see the level of trust and respect between the actors involved.

Barry Sloane, who plays Yosser, had my heart from the start; a man who will fight until the very end. His storyline around his children and his desperation to provide for his family is exceptional. I’ve personally never been in the position but you could feel his pain, rage, anger and the overwhelming love he has for his children. I also really enjoyed watching Lauren O’Neil and Hayley Sheen's performances, as they embodied multiple characters throughout. One of the funniest characters is Jean, played by Lauren O’Neil, she had the whole audience roaring with laughter.

This show will have you laughing, interspersed with some heart-breaking moments and you will learn pieces of history along the way. As the play is set in 1982, I’m not sure if the play or TV series is based on real characters, but it feels so real that you can imagine they might be.

The plot of the show is focused around five men who are interlinked in one way or another, as we follow each character's journey on their everyday struggles. Labourers who are thrown into the benefits system seemed to chime with the ongoing political dramas that were happening in the real world around that time. The heart of this story is a group of men trying to provide for their families, or simply to just survive.

The staging designed by Amy Jane Cook is set up with two looming cranes on either side of the stage, a screen with Liverpool’s dark sides and the shipping docks. This works throughout the show as the set becomes quite versatile for different locations, like the employment office and character's homes. Even from the small details on set, like the lights in the boxes to help transition between scenes, it added an almost ballet-like feel, which was very effective. One of the scenes, with Yosser (Barry Sloane) and the police, is acted out in slow motion, which worked really well and added to how tense this moment would have been; I felt it was all cleverly done. 

This is a must-see show for the all generations, especially the younger ones, to learn about this way of life.

You can book tickets to Boys From the Blackstuff at Garrick Theatre, here.

Review by Sarah

**photo credit: Alastair Muir**

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