Theatre review - The Toyboy Diaries, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

PUBLISHED: 13:15 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:15 25 January 2018

Matt Beveridge, Sharif Afifi & Alistair Higgins in The Toyboy Diaries

Matt Beveridge, Sharif Afifi & Alistair Higgins in The Toyboy Diaries

Archant

The ToyBoy Diaries doesn’t, unfortunately, live up to its hype.

Johanne Murdock in The ToyBoy Diaries at Hope Mill Theatre
Credit: Anthony RoblingJohanne Murdock in The ToyBoy Diaries at Hope Mill Theatre Credit: Anthony Robling

I was quite looking forward to this show – the opportunity for laughter in convivial company on a cold January night is never to be declined. Sadly, I didn’t really do much laughing.

The premise of the play is simple: single older woman meets single younger men and has lots of fun. It’s a shame the fun doesn’t translate to the audience’s experience.

Sharif Afifi and Johanne Murdock: The ToyBoy Diaries, Hope Mill Theatre Manchester
Credit: Athony RoblingSharif Afifi and Johanne Murdock: The ToyBoy Diaries, Hope Mill Theatre Manchester Credit: Athony Robling

The attitudes of society towards older women dating younger men are still a little harsh, though this is changing. Just look at the very successful relationship between Hollywood director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her much younger husband Aaron. I had anticipated a little more consideration of this angle, and a lot more consideration of the potential for hilarity in turning up for blind dates with young men recruited through a newspaper advert. Neither happened.

The play started slowly, and barely increased in pace for its entirety, which seemed a long time. Too much time was spent on telling the audience what we’d just seen, which could have been better spent on showing us something else. A scene where the cougar protagonist Lily meets a young man watching a football match had huge potential. It fizzled fast – and then she told us all about it, through the medium of song.

Ah yes – the songs. Nothing really stands out. Were they all the same tune? I can’t recall. I know musicals tell stories through song, but these were a little facile at times. The opportunity for clever humour once again missed.

There was a device used just twice that had potential too – the moment where a professor’s gown is donned and a ‘lesson’ delivered. This could have been fun, but was poorly used. And the waving about of the Rabbit? No. Just no.

This brings me to the dialogue. Cringe. Not all of it was awful. The relationship between Lily and her friend Penny was lovely; well portrayed in word and action. Nicola Blackman, as Penny, has excellent comic timing and could easily have been used a lot more. Johanne Murdock, playing Lily, did very well with a limp script too and her nods to the audience worked well. The part that really had me squirming in my seat was the final act, where she sits and chats with her latest toyboy, Ben. Oh my, what awful, stodgy, facile words he was given! His account of what led him to his fixation on older women was pure 50 Shades (older sexy neighbour leads young man astray, he’s never gotten over it…) His delivery didn’t help – ‘acting’ young but supremely self-confident doesn’t come naturally to this young man.

I still think there is great potential in this play, but it needs seriously tightening up, quite a lot cutting out and some actual funny stuff putting in.

When there are so many excellent shows visiting Manchester at the moment, there are far better ways to spend your ticket money.

hopemilltheatre.co.uk

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