Market Boy - which reunites Festen’s playwright and director, David Eldridge and Rufus Norris - received its world premiere at the National Theatre last night (6 June 2006) as the second production in this year’s Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier.

Set in Romford Market in 1985, a young boy learns the lessons of Thatcherite economics, capitalism, and life, to a soundtrack of Eighties pop classics. The cast features Claire Rushbrook (Festen), Jonathan Cullen, Callum Dixon, Paul Moriarty and Freddy Boy with Danny Worters as the title character. Market Boy continues in rep until 3 August 2006.

First night critics enjoyed reminiscing about the highs and lows of the “greed is good” decade and largely agreed that Norris’ production of Eldridge’s play is both spectacular and amusing. While there were concerns about the underdevelopment of some characters, and the relatively muted tone of the Thatcher-bashing, several critics drew favourable comparisons with Ben Jonson’s Jacobean classic Bartholomew Fair.

** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to Market Boy on 19 July 2006
- including FREE drink, post-show Q&A with Rufus Norris & FREE signed programmes
for first 50 bookers – all for only £15!! - click here for more details! **


  • Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com - Coveney compared Market Boy to "a modern Bartholomew Fair, an affectionate visitation of (Eldridge’s) own youth in Romford market during the 1980s, and a rites-of-passage parable of withdrawn new lad on the block Boy (Danny Worters) finding his voice and losing his cherry…. Eldridge and his director Rufus Norris serve up a wonderful parade of market life and lore... Eldridge captures something of the mood and, yes, suburban poetry, of that time with unerring accuracy.” Coveney added: “Katrina Lindsay’s gorgeous design of mobile market stalls and a huge iron gantry allows for some breathtaking stage compositions and choreography (by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett of Frantic Assembly).”

  • Paul Taylor in the Independent - “The protagonist's rite of passage from innocent boy to disillusioned young man is mapped against the country's own journey from the boom of the late Eighties to the recession of the early Nineties. But if it's ultimately a morality tale, there is nothing in the least preachy about Rufus Norris' highly engaging production in which 30 actors playing over 50 roles create a vitalising sense of the anything-goes energy and euphoria of the period. Mrs Thatcher's periodic cartoon-like appearances as the acclaimed mythic heroine visiting her heartland have a loopy comic charm… The drawback in the first half is that unlike, say, Ben Jonson's comparable Jacobean comedy, Bartholomew Fair, with its contrast between traders and Puritans, the play doesn't rustle a plot or clash of values…. But the show still feels wonderfully theatrical without being sufficiently dramatic. It's an exhilarating piece of stage-craft… Tricking us into nostalgia (with the Eighties pop hits) before bringing us back to our senses, the show blows a juicy kiss to the Eighties through a V-sign.”

  • Michael Billington in the Guardian - “Rufus Norris' stunning production… vibrantly colonises the vast Olivier stage. The action follows the induction of the naive 13-year-old hero, who works on a shoe stall, into the joys of selling, sex, ecstasy, Essex banter, and life at large. The play might almost be called Birth of a Salesman; except that, as things fall apart and the economy goes into free-fall, the hero gets out and heads for the formalised lottery of the City. It's a teeming, hyperactive play… what is impressive is the kaleidoscopic skill with which Eldridge organises his material. If I have any complaint, it is that Eldridge lets Thatcher off lightly. She is viewed iconically rather than ironically… There is immense pleasure to be had from Norris's exuberant production. An empty stage miraculously fills up, in Katrina Lindsay's design, with steel frames and stalls overflowing with fish, meat, fruit and veg, records, and clothes. Norris also wittily reinforces Eldridge's point that a street market is itself a form of theatre: one in which there's no business like shoebusiness… Other plays may have viewed the 1980s more critically. But I can't think of any that have caught so well, whatever we may think of it, its insane capitalist fervour.”

  • Sam Marlowe in The Times - “Like much of Eldridge’s writing, Market Boy is rooted in his Essex upbringing; unlike his usual social realism, it explodes with vivid theatricality. And it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in ages… Trembling on a stage bare but for a central, towering steel scaffold, Boy steps into a spotlight. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ pumps out, and, through a rear wall bearing a Tory electoral poster bursts a transit van… They construct the market on a giant revolve before the astonished eyes of both Boy and audience… It’s bold, brash, and fabulous. It’s also overlong, and there’s little complexity to its parade of characters…. But nuance would be out of place in a portrayal of an era devoid of subtlety — and such audacity means you’ll forgive Eldridge and Norris almost anything. This production has a true spirit of daring — it’s exhilarating.”

    - by Caroline Ansdell


    ** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to Market Boy on 19 July 2006
    - including FREE drink, post-show Q&A with Rufus Norris & FREE signed programmes
    for first 50 bookers – all for only £15!! - click here for more details! **