In recent times there has been an influx of theatrical adaptations of novels. Adaptations are a tricky beast, and Boy Parts is no exception. Taking a one-woman approach, Gillian Greer has adapted the cult novel into a concise 90 minutes. The play concerns Irina, a photographer based out of Newcastle, and her descent from sanity as she prepares for her first gallery showing in London, discussing themes of voyeurism and brutality. Irina’s work takes the male gaze and turns it back on men, taking vulnerable, and sometimes BDSM informed photos of soft feminine boys.
Aimée Kelly takes the role in this one woman play with a black wit. Her comedic timing is excellent as she voices a variety of the people in Irina’s life, from the squeaky best friend Flo to her low-toned final photographic subject Eddie. Her performance’s energy never falters, and she takes us from beginning to end with a great deal of nuance. Ironically, Kelly perhaps plays Irina with too much likeability – in the novel (and unfortunately comparasions must be made) Irina is a cruel striking figure, a textbook psychopath, cutting down the people in her life with a brutal indifference. There is a tenderness that’s lost in the adaptation, a lack of depth of emotion that blocks the audience from truly entering Irina’s madness with her.
That said, the trio of designers Hayley Egan, Peter Butler, and Christopher Nairne, creating video, stage and costume, and lighting respectively, form a wonderfully stark stage, the only set piece a single chair. Projectors and on stage cameras are used cleverly to depict brutal moments, and the lighting especially creates a dynamic stage for Kelly to play with, incorporating light and shadow in equal measure. However, I think the play lacked for none of Irina’s pictures were ever shown; instead just the title and medium were flashed across the projector. I’m not against the play’s one-woman format, as though initially jarring it plays into Irina’s descent from sanity – I simply think that there was something lacking from the final outcome. The play struggled with pacing and cut much of the novel out – we lost Irina’s history and certain other moments that perhaps would have added a touch of tenderness that we, the audience, needed.
Ultimately however, it is a very interesting and visually stunning adaptation of the novel, though Eliza Clark fans may be disappointed in its necessary decisions.
Words by Buse Tobin
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