More than one critically acclaimed book has recently been brought to the stage, some with great success, others with lesser success. So it is safe to say that the stage adaptation of Eliza Clark’s debut novel Boy Parts was eagerly awaited, and it does not disappoint. The production at the Soho Theatre shows not only a fascinatingly intense Irina but also a ruthlessly feminist view of gender roles; It is twisted like Irina’s relationship with her models.

The story of Boy Parts follows Irina Sturges, a photographer from Newcastle. Her speciality is scouting young men on the street and taking explicit photographs of them in her garage, sometimes with a penchant for fetishism. Her life is not exactly what she dreamed of, between unpleasant situations at the bar where she works, a strained relationship with an old friend and drug excesses, she receives a request to send works to a well-known gallery. And when her photos don’t quite fit into the steamy concept of the exhibition, she gets caught up in a maelstrom of creative frenzy, bordering on madness, that ends in one big question: how far must (or can?) an artist go to make her mark in the world? And how far can she bend the classic view of gender roles to achieve her goals?

Gill Greer’s script is to the point, in around 80 minutes there is enough space for the story to unfold without getting lost in trivialities. Under the precise direction of Sara Joyce, Aimée Kelly (Irina) manages to captivate us completely. Her monologue tells not only hers but also the stories of her models, while Kelly is effortlessly changing the intensity and mannerisms of the people she meets on her creative journey. Which is a fantastic achievement!

The stage, simply furnished with only one chair, is completely taken over by Kelly. Hayley Egan’s video wall, which runs the full length of the stage, breaks up the dynamic presentation in exactly the right places. Sometimes showing the photographer’s garage and sometimes the gallery’s messages. I appreciated the effective sound design, especially the sound of reloading flashlights which creates a fully rounded production.

Boy Parts is a fascinating thriller that gains depth when Irina proudly states that she can capture and reproduce the male gaze with her camera. She claims to be able to objectify her male models in the same way that men all too often do to women. An exciting statement, from an artistic point of view, and a recurring theme. Only repeatedly broken by abusive men in Irina’s life. The stage adaption of Boy Parts is a successful production that artistically deals with the male (or female?) gaze and almost casually illuminates the power and control games within the art scene, with more shadow than light.

Boy Parts is running at the Soho Theatre until the 25th of November.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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