Review | ‘The Boys in the Band’ is an important story but it’s dated

The Boys in the Band | State Theatre Centre | Until 21 Nov | ★ ★ ★ 

Set in the mid-1960’s, a group of gay friends meet to celebrate a birthday but an unexpected guest throws a spanner in the cogs of their queer soiree. After a run at the Dolphin Theatre at UWA this local production of Mort Crowley’s classic play moved to The State Theatre for additional performances.

The Boys in the Band is a play with numerous complexities. It’s dated and yet still presents many relevant truths. It’s humorous, giving lots of laughs but they aren’t enough to distract from the confronting, heavy issues portrayed. It makes no apology for it either. While some of the characters are likeable, there’s a lot of snarky, negative interactions that may leave you wondering how these people are friends.

This play really needs to be understood in the context of the time and culture it was written within. It first premiered in 1968 when homosexuality was still taboo and much of gay culture was hidden from public view. Racist comments directed at one character are peppered throughout. Those who have lived within that culture may find this play triggering. It also does a stellar job of portraying the dysfunction that can emanate from an alcohol fueled evening.

The play is quite long, going for 2.5 hours with an intermission. The first half of the play left me thinking I was watching local, amateur theatre. Too much unnecessary movement around stage and many moments of looking out into the void of the audience or side stage felt unnatural and made the characters hard to warm to. I would have an educated guess the second act was rehearsed much more than the first. The actors seemed more relaxed and natural, really bringing their characters to life.

Bravo to the set designer. The layout was very effective and created natural, believable spaces for the cast to move through. A few well placed retro items among the minimalist furniture and 1968 was reborn. The lighting and music were also very well done. The choices were simple and cues were met perfectly.

Halimah Halse

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