Georgie Bolwell casts a critical eye over Boho, a piece of musical theatre from Theatr Clwyd & Hijinx Theatre Company, directed by Hannah Noone.
Theatr Clwyd and Hijinx have collaborated to bring audiences a stunning piece of musical theatre. Composed and directed by Hannah Noone, Boho presents a small but diverse cast of actors in a delightful exploration of what it means to be good enough. Light-hearted, amusing, and insightful, the piece is a wonderful addition to the actors’ repertoire and its world premiere at Theatr Clwyd was a shining start to the play’s run.
Boho follows corporate cog, David Jones, through his day-to-day life as a modern employee and the struggles that entails. In his bid to keep up with the ‘quick, smart, accurate, strong, fit, healthy, young, fun, gorgeous’ lifestyle he is expected to live, David loses track of himself and eventually drops the ball. When he is called in for evaluation, David is sentenced to Boho, an alternative, musical universe where different is not only okay, but is encouraged. The show demonstrates what it means to succeed in modern society and how we cope when we can no longer maintain the ever-increasing pace that is demanded of us.
Performing in the small and intimate Emlyn Williams Theatre, three actors and one onstage musician handled the story extremely well. Lucy Green and Kenny Harman, both Hijinx North Academy graduates, took up numerous roles supporting Daniel Lloyd’s David Jones. Barnaby Southgate controlled the music and was extremely reactive to the action on stage, even while joining in with costume changes and acting himself. Green and Harman had worked together before and this was obvious in their onstage relationship. Their portrayal of various characters was charming and worked well alongside Lloyd’s clever depiction of Jones.
The score is engaging, entertaining, and, more than anything, highly amusing. The upbeat, uplifting songs carried an undertone of slightly disconcerting – though thoroughly accurate – social commentary. The inclusion of the Welsh language in the dialogue and score was an interesting and refreshing innovation. The overall message of the piece – to be yourself, to wear your problems, but not let them define you – is beautifully conveyed through Noone’s expert composition and direction, the actors’ sensitive and enjoyable portrayal of the characters, and Southgate’s brilliant handling of the score.
Boho has a distinctly Wizard of Oz feel to it, even down to the ‘nervous soldier’ played by Harman. It is a charmingly modern take on Dorothy’s ‘journey to self-discovery’. Its shrewd depiction of the struggles of daily life for a corporate worker is couched in cheerful songs and dances on Boho’s own yellow-brick road. Though a short play at only an hour long, the characters are depicted vibrantly, the story is communicated effectively. Perhaps suited to a younger demographic, audience enthusiasm and participation is clearly encouraged.
Overall, this was a truly enjoyable, and surprisingly heartfelt, experience. Following its short run at Theatr Clwyd, Boho is going on to open the Hijinx Unity Festival at Galeri in Caernarfon, where I am sure it will be received with all the joy it deserves.
(Image credit: Mark Carline)
Georgie Bolwell is a contributor to Wales Arts Review.