Three men stand facing the audience, a spotlight on each. A middle-aged black man and a middle-aged white man are on either side of a black teenager, who is caught in the middle - physically here, between his father and his school counsellor, and unseen, between all sorts of competing pressures, influences and expectations.
The adults are arguing over the boy’s future. Is he turning “bad”? Can he be saved? The boy interjects emphatically: Is bad bad? Does he want to be saved? Neither adult listens to him, or to one another. There is little real communication, they are speaking to the audience, to be heard, not to each other.
Despite well-meaning intentions, the odds become more and more stacked against the boy. First he’s slapped with an ASBO for punching a teacher, then he plays a part, albeit inactive, in an assault and, as he’s no snitch, he’s the one remanded. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be saved. Perhaps the system makes it impossible, no matter what he wants.
Gbolahan Obiesesan’s lyrical play captures the dilemma facing so many disenfranchised urban youth, struggling to find their way while also saving face and maintaining status amongst hard-bitten and judgemental peers. And it’s beautifully written – less a play than a poem for three voices, words and phrases picked up and moved on, meanings and inflections shifting with repetition.
But at just 50 minutes, the story feels incomplete. By the end, I’m mad about this Boy, played with moving bravado by Bayo Gbadamosi, and I’m dying to know what becomes of him and his promise to his desperate Dad, a heartbreaking mystified Cyril Nri.