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Boys Cry at Riverside Studios – review

The one-man show heads to Hammersmith

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Christian Graham
© Matt Carnazza

After an outing at Omnibus Theatre, Christian Graham's monologue about male mental health plays at Riverside Studios. Described as straddling the line between traditional theatre and spoken word, the show is an intriguing watch which touches on several issues – though perhaps doesn't delve too far into them.

When Mark (also played by Graham) is mugged on his way to college, his entire world shatters around him. Though luckily left unharmed by the armed attacker, he continues to feel scared, unsafe and unsure of himself, with this event causing him to interrogate his life choices and mens' emotional responses, or lack thereof. Mark tries to find hobbies he can escape into: such as joining a karate course because his Dad tells him to, and diving headfirst into the world of anime via early 00s internet forums and blogs, using the latter as a coping mechanism. We watch as he begins to make sense of the attack alongside becoming – and questioning what it means to be – a man.

There are some excellent moments which highlight the struggle men face in dealing with their emotions, but the script has many strands which perhaps could be explored further – from Mark and his father's relationship, the bullying he receives after the mugging, and his new friendship-stroke-relationship with Lottie. There's a lot of ground to cover here in a swift 60 minutes and, because of this, we don't feel as much of a connection to Mark as we perhaps would expect in a one-man show. Mark's cathartic cry at the climax of the play doesn't feel like much of a release to the audience.

Ebenezer Bamgboye's economical direction serves the story well, featuring film-like montages of karate and badminton to show the passing of time. Graham gives an energetic and earnest performance, sensitively handling these difficult topics, and there are genuinely funny moments daring to peek through the serious subject matter.

Though perhaps this isn't a story which is fully realised yet, it is certainly a piece which starts and adds to important conversations around male mental health and toxic masculinity, and that can only be a good thing.