Bonny Boys Are Few[author-post-rating] (2/5 Stars)

A son stands at the door of his father’s house, dressed in a conquistador outfit. He knocks – but no one is home. And so unravels two very different tales, of Juan Pablo, a Spanish Conquistador, born of an Incan woman on a ship and beached on the shores of Ireland, and of Michael John and primarily his uncle, who dives into a deep pool every day searching for a mythical creature in the hopes of making up for the wrongs he has done the family. This idea of making amends, of guilt carried across generations, is woven through the whole piece. Many of the key characters feel the need to atone for the sins of their past or the sins of their forefathers, and strive blindly to do so even as those nearest and dearest to them point out the uselessness – and even sometimes the harm – that this path causes. Glasgow-based theatre company Enormous Yes have packed bucket-loads into their ambitious show, with live music (and a rarely-seen live technician), many characters, and a story that spans from the 1500s right into the far future and the end of Michael John’s bloodline.

It seems overly harsh to give this show a two-star rating, but I feel that three stars is a general recommendation to the public, and I cannot recommend a show that in my mind is not complete yet. This is not to discount the show or the company – Bonny Boys Are Few was an exciting piece to watch as a theatre practitioner, because it got my brain ticking over the next steps this show could take. At the moment it feels very much like a work-in-progress – the show contains so much that sometimes it is hard to keep up with character, location and time changes, and many themes were brushed upon but none really followed to a particularly conclusive end. The humour was light and engaging and primarily came from people breaking character to question motives within the scene, and this is good fun, but perhaps comes at the expense of a deeper emotional connection with the characters and their journeys. And for a show that was about a time-travelling conquistador, a giant mythical eel that eats misery, and one of the great Irish Sidhe, it felt a little lacking in magic and wonder for my liking.

But these are all things that can be explored further, played with, and developed – and I am sure they will be. Enormous Yes are taking risks with their theatre. They are experimenting and finding new things and for that they should be applauded. It takes guts to put together a show with the scope Bonny Boys has, and I thoroughly look forward to seeing how this intriguing tale develops.

Bonny Boys Are Few played at The Old Courthouse as part of the Brighton Fringe.