What Would You Do If You Fell in Love with Someone Unexpected? Boy Stroke Girl at Etcetera Theatre, NW1
I went to Boy Stroke Girl expecting to see an edgy play about defying gender stereotypes and perhaps questioning what gender means at all and on the surface it certainly was that. However underneath this philosophical questioning, what spoke to my heart was a piece about love.
For Boy Stroke Girl is -in my opinion- a play about how real love is seeing the beauty in a person beyond all the accoutrements that we present as who we are.
In my last blog post I wrote about how we (/me) in our consumerist society often attempt to define ourself by our "stuff", our outward appearance, where we are, what we wear, what we buy. Ironically this play takes this further by drawing our attention to the innate assumptions we make about people we meet. Even the most impartial of us who may be appear to have no prejudices of class/action/location/job/race etc will still automatically label someone as man or woman - whatever version of that we see.
Boy Stroke Girl centres around burgeoning relationship between Peter and Blue. Peter meets Blue in a coffee shop and they are both instantly attracted to one and other, quickly developing a repartee. Blue is an androgynous figure and from early on in the play it is clear to us that Blue purposefully presents themselves as gender neutral. In fact Peter does not find out Blue's gender of birth until the very end of the play and this question provides the crux of the narrative.
Peter is a straight, cis male; a classic London lefty, Guardian-reading, Doctor Who-watching lad. Prior to meeting Blue, Peter considers himself relaxed and open-minded, yet let alone having never questioned his sexuality he now struggles to adjust to being with someone who does not externally present themselves as one gender or the other. Through his relationship with Blue, he is forced to open up and challenge his own previous beliefs, especially in conflict with his friends who become increasingly confused and judgemental about his dating choices.
As I said though, this play is really about love and unexpected attraction and encourages questions on the influence of friends, family and environment. What would you do if you fell in love with someone unexpected?
I felt there were some stereotypical personalities in Peter's friends and especially his parents characters. However in my option this wasn't a weakness but merely employed successfully and necessarily within a one hour run-time to illustrate the different nuances of prejudice that one individual is likely to come across. If this was ever turned into a TV Show, which I believe it could work well as, there would be opportunity for rounder supporting characters.
Witty dialogue and brilliant acting made this play one of the best I've seen this year. Underneath the subversion of gender norms is a subject matter as old as time, love and how once in love our judgements and prejudices fall away and we just see the soul beneath. A joyful message in these times.
Ilaria Ciardelli (Blue), Gianbruno Spena (Peter), Thomasina Lockwood (Sarah/Suzy/Cath) and Duncan Mason (Trevor/Ron) were all wonderful and the writing by Ian Dixon Potter was sharp, witty and very contemporary.
Unfortunately this run of the show finished in early March, but I have no doubt that there will be another run soon (fingers X'd) or holler at some TV Execs to get a series in production.
Otherwise, Ian Dixon Potter's new play Tiresia, which also stars half of the cast of Boy Stroke Girl is coming in July 2017 and I will definitely be going to see it.