Am I the only person not to have seen The Boy James on
its first sell-out Edinburgh outing or subsequent London transfer? I
might have missed out this time, too, had some benign spirit not conjured
up a last-minute ticket. But happily they did and so late Sunday evening, I'm climbing the stairs to the very top of C-Soco and into Belt Up's
land of make-believe.
Heavily influenced by Peter Pan and its author J.M.
Barrie, this show is a battle of the imagination between James' older
and younger selves; a mental tug-of-war between the inevitable onset of adulthood
and the eternal appeal of Neverland.
Alexander Wright's script treads the fine line like a tight-rope, drawing in the audience from the
start as the boy (Jethro Compton) has us playing
games and holding hands before deciding we'll be his army on his next adventure. An adventure that's threatened as soon as the older James (Dan Wood) and the girl (Lucy
Farrett) enter the room.
Belt Up's stagecraft won't be to everyone's tastes and there are
moments when the adults-playing-children conceit risks losing even
tonight's enrapt audience. But as a final show to see at the fringe,
it's a magical
experience and, like growing up, not without its pain. I began my
week with an invitation back to childhood in Alma Mater; I end it leaving childhood and the boy James behind. Rarely have I felt so reluctant (and guilty) as I get up to go.