Point, set, shoot! Irina Sturges has an eye for portraiture—and even more so for the men whom she lures in front of her lens. With all the charm of a snake-wrangler, she stalks them, scouts them, then shoots them before they even know to what they’ve committed. Plucked from the streets and dropped naked and defenceless in her studio, Irina enjoys the hunt. She knows just how to make men vulnerable, how to tempt them into submission, and how to keep them coming back for more. Yet, as Irina struggles to make the world respect her vision and a new model tests her obsessions, Irina must confront what lengths she will go to for the perfect shot.
Adapted from Eliza Clarke’s bestselling debut Boy Parts, Clarke and SOHO Theatre’s Gillian Greer brings the subversive and visceral novel to the stage in uncompromising style. Driven by a dark compulsion for power in a world which refuses to relinquish it, Aimée Kelly’s Irina is at once perpetrator of, and witness to, her own downfall. Kelly flashes between characters with blinding shutter speed, yet retains a crystal clear vision of each. Her vocal embodiment rivals ventriloquism and adds a crawling uneasiness to the show’s lurking themes of bodily autonomy, mimicry, and gendered spectatorship. Kelly soars through the show, absorbing not only every character, but also her audience as she lures them all under her gaze.
In fact, there is no respite from Irina’s gaze, as the entire show is set in the lens of her camera. Photos, videos, and email correspondences flash like memories upstage throughout the show—at times playful, at others callous and incriminating. The collaboration of Set Designer Peter Butler and Lighting Designer Christopher Nairne deftly evokes Irina’s volatile and capricious nature, while leaving Kelly generous space to realise her own vision of Irina.
The stage is often set only by light, either streaming in from the aperture upstage, or flashing in sporadic motions across the entire theatre. Nairne plays with the architecture of the stage image, toying with the space’s dimensions as a photographer with their camera—or indeed, a predator with their prey. At times, the stage fills with amorphous blurs bleeding from Irani’s prostrate body and testing the audience like a rorschach card; at others, the backdrop flushes from white, to pink, to a blazing and ravenous red.
Despite its independent prowess, Butler and Nairne’s staging allows the physicality of each character to dress the set, and Kelly is certainly up to the task. Donning a rich array of masculinities and femininities, Kelly lays bare each character’s flaws and hypocrisies for the audience, never shying away from a laugh at their expense. She fills the space with a command only equalled by Tom Foskett-Barnes’ striking sound design. Working in perfect tandem with the rest of the design team, Foskett-Barnes’ score crackles, booms, and fizzles with latent energy. As eruptive as Irina herself, the play’s sound strikes and lashes the audience in ways both impish and threatening. Impressively, these tones never clash.
Despite its graphic subjects and its violent and often morose narrator, Boy Parts balances the horror and humour of the female and non-male experiences with equal grace. With such a tactful and adroit adaptation, one can only hope this team comes together again in the future. Until then, Boy Parts will be playing until November 23rd at the SOHO Theatre in London, so get your tickets before they inevitably sell out.