Book – Boy With Beer
Author – Paul Boakye
Year – 1992
Pages – 54
Genre – Play, Drama
I mentioned in the write up of the last play I read, An Inspector Calls, that it was by no means a play that challenged me at all. Well, this one is somewhat different, and I am not entirely sure I rose to the challenge.
Boy With Beer is generally regarded as one of the very first black, gay plays. It was first performed in the early nineties at a time when the culture in Britain was very different to what it is today. The vast majority of what I know of this is secondhand, as I was only eight when this play first happened, but as best I understand it, the threat of AIDS was huge on the gay scene, and attitudes to race still had a long way to develop to reach even today’s standards. A two-hander, showing young clubber Donovan staying at the flat of slightly older Ghanaian Kyle over a course of three months, this is the kind of social-based play that should help me to understand a little more about the time and the situation.
But I honestly cannot say it did. I am not sure what this play was trying to say, and whether it managed it at all. Let me caveat this somewhat. I am a straight, white, cis-man. The possibility that this is not a play written with me in mind has most certainly entered my head. I am happy to suggest three huge possibilities here. One, the play went over my head entirely and I am being stupid by even suggesting it wasn’t very good. I am very open to this being possible, which is a shame but only for me. If others can take something from it then brilliant. Secondly, there is the possibility that it simply needs to be seen. This is true of a lot of plays – as soon as they are simply read, it takes a lot from the whole thing. Thirdly, it was not a great play. The reason I think this is possible is that the characters seem not very well defined, the plot leaps with little development of intention, the interesting ideas, such as Kyle’s returning to Ghana and being distraught at seeing the dungeons his ancestors were forced to live in before being shipped to slavery in the Caribbean, are abandoned, and the resolution does not feel earned.
I feel harsh suggesting that a play that is potentially somewhat seminal is not great, but that is the feeling I am left with after reading it. I will keep expanding my horizons, and am pleased I read it, but it really was not one for me.