Declan Bennett finds himself living alone in the Oxfordshire countryside during the height of the Covid pandemic – this uniquely lonely environment opens doors for self-reflection, distraction, and despair. We jump through time, glimpsing key moments of Declan’s life, as he wrestles with his internalised shame around his sexuality and identity, before “giving up” and accepting himself and his journey.
Declan Bennett’s script itself is the star of this piece – filled with beautiful imagery reflecting the emotional backdrop of each scene and coming back later to emphasise shifts in tone, it really is a stunning piece of writing.
Bennett’s performance of his work is largely brilliant; while some moments feel a little over-exerted, and we need more distinction when embodying different characters, the times when he is speaking directly to the audience, often physically closer to the edge of the stage, are where he shines. At the show’s emotional climax, he performs an incredible scene confronting the inner self he’s been suppressing for so long – we find ourselves on the edge of our seats, following what could be a very confusing scene with ease and a desperate investment in the character. At the close of this scene, Bennett manages to perform silence so powerfully that it is somehow just as engaging as the delivery of his phenomenal script.
Overall, we are left wanting for a little more clarity throughout – both in terms of plot and intention – and scenes where Bennett remains within Reuben Speed’s beautifully-designed set (directed well by Nancy Sullivan to make the most of the full extent of the set and stage space) do feel a little further detached than might be most effective. However, the technical theatre employed is excellent, with interesting lighting design from Alex Lewer and use of music and soundbites that is nothing short of perfection (designed by Max Pappenheim).
This is a piece of theatre with a powerful message and, with work to be done, an exciting future – certainly one to keep an eye on and catch if you can while it’s here!
Boy Out The City plays at the Lyric until Saturday 30th September. Tickets from £12: here.
Review: Penny Lane