In this solo show about isolation, homophobia and mental health, Declan Bennett draws on his journals and personal experiences to weave a compelling tale.
After the worst St Patrick’s Day on record, Declan decides to escape the London lockdown and move to Oxfordshire with his boyfriend. Initally enjoying the change of pace, with beautiful walks and a bakery that is only open three days a week, things take a darker turn when his boyfriend gets a job in Atlanta for six months. Suddenly finding the solitude oppressive – with only Zoom, banana bread and an octogenarian neighbour to keep him occupied – Declan begins to drink more and sink further into depression.
The piece covers a lot of themes, and some strands therefore are left loose. The build to his past catching up to him takes a little too long, so that the myriad stories revealed in the latter part feel a bit rushed. Each is delivered with wholehearted sincerity, however, and the exploration of toxic masculity, growing up closeted in Coventry, and struggles with physical and mental ill-health are keenly observed.
This piece has both humour and pathos, and Bennett’s performance is strong throughout. His struggles are relatable, his character engaging, and the use of music to underscore the production is simply suberb.
By Deborah Klayman
Boy Out The City plays at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh until 27th August 2023.