18 April 2024
Entertainment Theater

‘Boy Components’ Assessment: Onstage, a Harmful Lady Isn’t Sufficient

How far are you able to go within the title of artwork? For Irina, nothing is off-limits. She’s a photographer who takes footage of younger males, with a specific choice for guys which are unprepossessing, shy and biddable. Irina’s “factor” is capturing male vulnerability, so she images her topics in compromising poses; she takes liberties with consent, and violates their dignity in more and more troubling and violent methods.

Irina is the antiheroine of “Boy Components,” tailored from Eliza Clark’s 2020 debut novel of the identical title, and working on the Soho Theater, in London, by Nov. 25. It’s an engrossing and darkly humorous one-woman present, however doesn’t fairly make the very best of its provocative premise.

Aimée Kelly performs the function with a successful mix of caustic humor and narcissistic self-pity: She’s extremely strung, manipulative and insecure. By modulating her voice and posture, Kelly additionally performs numerous different characters, together with Flo — Irina’s finest buddy, whose virtually canine devotion is rewarded with informal contempt — and a succession of hapless younger males, portrayed a sympathetic, slouchy attraction. Irina’s motivations are each aesthetic and political: She idolizes the filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini — the director of the infamously graphic characteristic “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” — and desires to subvert the standard energy dynamics of objectification within the visible arts, by placing males on the receiving finish of a violating gaze.

Gillian Greer’s adaptation efficiently transposes the unsettlingly blithe, virtually jaunty narrative model that received over so lots of the novel’s readers. (Regardless of garnering solely modest protection within the mainstream press, it grew to become a viral hit on TikTok.) However among the finer subtleties are misplaced. Within the novel, Irina’s mates, whereas predominantly in her thrall, have occasional moments of readability, wherein they see her for what she was. Onstage, Irina metes out her sadism with comparatively little pushback, however these telling little flashes of interpersonal rigidity would have lent themselves to stage adaptation, and Greer might have teased them out extra.

The set, by Peter Butler, is naked aside from a single stool; a display in the back of the stage exhibits {a photograph} of the storage Irina makes use of as her studio, switching pictures to indicate totally different settings. However in any other case, and paradoxically — provided that this can be a story about pictures — the visible medium is nearly solely eschewed: We see no precise artworks, and occasions are relayed largely by anecdote fairly than motion. The opening strains of Goldfrapp’s 2000 single “Pretty Head” present an intermittent soundtrack, with doleful whistling and harpsichord making a suitably gloomy environment.

The one-woman present format is apt, in a method, because the story revolves round an unreliable narrator. By standing in for all the opposite characters, Kelly as Irina has full management over the narrative, and the absence of every other bodily presence offers a literal expression to Irina’s self-absorption.

There may be, in fact, a convention of thrillers wherein a girl engages within the type of creepy antics extra sometimes related to males, relationship again to motion pictures like “Deadly Attraction” (1987) and “Single White Feminine” (1992). The tendency, lately, has been to dignify the tawdry sensationalism of such tales by providing up pathological explanations for problematic conduct — a theme that has turn out to be drearily familiar in up to date fiction — or, as in Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Younger Lady” (2020), framing prison exploits as morally authentic revenge missions. In “Boy Components,” Irina points a pointed rejection of the trauma plot: “Perhaps I identical to to harm folks,” she says. She is unhealthy, just because she is unhealthy.

It’s refreshing, nevertheless it’s additionally one thing of a story lifeless finish. There are not any subplots right here, no ethical ambiguities, no ifs or buts. There simply isn’t sufficient else occurring to offer satisfying complexity or depth as Irina hurtles from one misdeed to the following in a steeplechase of cruelty and self-sabotage.

The viewers could undertaking tongue-in-cheek irony onto it, in the event that they so please. The difficulty, in the long run, is {that a} winking pastiche of schlock doesn’t feel and look all that totally different from schlock itself.

Boy Components

By Nov. 25 on the Soho Theater, in London; sohotheatre.com.