Theatre Review: Lost Boys, Unity Theatre, Liverpool feat. Louis Carrington & Eoin McKenna

Image Source: Unity Theatre

Lost Boys

Format: Play
Genre: Comedy Drama
Writer: Luke Barnes
Cast: Louis Carrington, Floriana Dezou, Faye Donnellan, Tom Isted, Neve Kelman, Alexandre King, Charlie Knowles, Alex Meredith, Eoin McKenna, Kwame Owusu, Jenna Sian O’Hara, Sam Rees-Baylis & Daryl Rowlands
Review Date: September 5 2019
Performances: September 4 2019-September 11 2019, 7.30pm
Location: Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Age Rating: 14+

Lost Boys has come to Liverpool’s Unity Theatre to provide a lasting impact on its audience, and based on the highly positive feedback on press night, the show definitely succeeded. The show comes from National Youth Theatre, and it has received high praise which, after watching it live, was easy to understand. The title Lost Boys emphasises how young men are lost in a world where they are expected to behave in one manner, but might desire to be something totally different and thus they encounter deep struggles as a result, and I would bet money that the majority of attendees will feel this way on some level. I would also suggest that the core messages could apply to females as well, who might also wish to be themselves in a way that they believe society does not allow.

Synopsis

The cast is made up of more than a dozen performers, with Louis Carrington at the centre of narrating the tale written by Luke Barnes, as well as standing in the background during the many other scenes involving other performers. Louis explains as the show progresses that this show represents his story, his journey, and essentially the different elements that brought this show to life. This tale is made up of several interweaving narratives, with one being The Play (as written on the large screen), which includes scenes detailing how the original, thespian-friendly nature of a story was transformed by the actors and actresses themselves into a much more personable and relatable exploration of life and its challenges for young people.

This is emphasised further by The Journey Of Dean, with us following Dean (Eoin McKenna) from being quiet and insecure to putting on a false front to look tough in front of his friends, which along with some attempted dating mishaps creates the burden of depression in his mind. We also follow Superman Fan Fiction, as we’re told about the early and teenage years of Clark Kent, but with Superman’s tale being presented with depth and realism so that the soon-to-be superhero shares much in common with the emotions felt by young men in modern Britain. And then there are The Band, a former school group who are reuniting due to their shared societal rejections, whilst making the most of their clear talents, their desires to have their voices heard, and their willingness to embrace who they actually are, not who people want them to be.

Analysis

Luke Barnes has done an excellent job of interlinking these stories and characters in such a manner that you never feel confused about what is going on, even when subtle methods are used to deliver the show’s clear messages on mental health, gender equality and many others. Humour is occasionally strong, and at other times minimal, but is tapped into often enough that the production never feels overly bleak; of course, there are dark moments, and scenes which will pose uncomfortable questions in the minds of attendees, but this is not a sad show in my opinion. Rather, this feels like a group course come to life, with past experiences, the challenging of stereotypical mindsets and the issues faced with making headway towards a potentially brighter future all covered. I liked the use of small building blocks on a road map, both of which would light up the theatre floor, and they served the purpose both of representing the northern town (which is never named, perhaps intentionally to demonstrate that mental health issues are not restricted to one location) and to provide seating and musical gearboxes for The Band.

The performers themselves form a superb cast. All involved are believable in their roles, and they never come across as acting; you believe that Louis Carrington really does want to tell his story, you believe that Eoin McKenna has a genuine heart and did not wish to find himself in the positions that would shape his future in a negative manner; you believe that Daryl Rowlands is authentic in her desire to help her boyfriend battle depression. There are several original songs that are both catchy and amusing, while other tunes are slower and truly heartfelt. I would say that the swearing did border on excessive, which might hinder potential audience numbers, and the addition of an interval would have allowed the audience a respite from some of the heavier moments. However, these are very minor criticisms for a show that I feel is a major success.

I want to make special mention of the final message delivered by Louis, which is aimed at those battling depression, those who are suffering because their relatives or friends are battling depression, or even those who are “okay” but would still sooner pursue some sort of better life. That message comes down to “you can do anything, but first you have to do something”. As an anxiety sufferer myself, I personally began to make headway once I realised that I was not alone in my battle (another key message from this show), and though my own journey is not yet complete, I truly felt that the small changes I began to make opened the door for large changes that made the prospect of a happier, more content life very much achievable, and it also meant that a relaxed mindset went from being an incredibly difficult target to an end goal that became a little easier and quicker to reach. Note that it is never truly easy, but the more that you learn and the more you are able to do, it really does become easier, so long as you have the motivation and the support network of friends and family (again a striking comment that this production makes).

Summary

This seems to be a time when mental health issues have never seemed more prevalent, but the reality is that depression and anxiety have always been widespread; in actuality, the current landscape simply allows those suffering from these illnesses (and yes, they are illnesses, no matter what anybody might tell you) to feel that they can be more open and can talk about how they are feeling. The hope is that these people will receive the help they need to begin and eventually complete the journey towards a brighter, more positive future. If they do, I feel that education and understanding will be key, not just from those suffering but also from those around them.

And if that is the case, then I feel that Lost Boys would be an ideal starting point. It is spot-on when it comes to addressing the notion that simply opening up can be the hardest part, but it is also the most important part, and sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they realise that things must change; however, the show strongly notes that things can and will improve, and the ending is one that should leave all attendees feeling positive. Much praise goes to the writer Luke Barnes, and to cast members Louis Carrington, Floriana Dezou, Faye Donnellan, Tom Isted, Neve Kelman, Alexandre King, Charlie Knowles, Alex Meredith, Eoin McKenna, Kwame Owusu, Jenna Sian O’Hara, Sam Rees-Baylis and Daryl Rowlands. I name them all because they are all crucial in bringing this to life and delivering hard-hitting points through a fourth-wall smashing, stereotype-breaking, tradition-bending, society-slapping, misconception-busting manner which means that, in my opinion, Lost Boys is the perfect portrayal of mental health problems faced by young people, particularly males, in 2019. This is an absolute must-see for anybody who wishes to understand what mental health illness sufferers truly have to face on a daily basis, as well as offering positive messages to remind us that things can and will get better. Hopefully, watching this show will inspire all attendees on some level. I believe it will.

Notes

Target Audience: Adults Aged 18-40
Content: 5/5 – Frequent Very Strong Language, Adult Themes
Recommendation?: Yes
Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect

Lost Boys runs at the Unity Theatre until Wednesday September 11. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 873 2888.