“They grow up so fast …” This saying is especially true for Tom Foreman’s self-written and directed play Big Boys. Performed at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, we get to be in the room as best friends Oscar (Owen Igiehon) and Ben (Tom Foreman) grow up – perhaps a little too fast.
Oscar and Ben are eight years old when we meet them. LMAO’s Party Rock Anthem is a thing and so is Runescape. Preparing for their first day at secondary school, they have their backpacks packed and their bodies sprayed with Lynx Africa – ready to brace whatever puberty might throw at them. They are best friends to the core, and nothing can ever change that. Or perhaps, the lonely girl that is sitting in the corner of the classroom, or the fact that Ben is more passionate about revising than Oscar, can?
The two boys’ friendship is explored in the black box theatre equipped with only two chairs and little else. Creative scene changes to voiceover chit-chat between Oscar and Ben lead us through the many years of their friendship. On the almost bare stage we see the two boys slowly grow into men, finish their A-levels and go off to university. They eat the same sandwiches, like the same things, have the same aspirations – until they don’t.
Foreman’s and Igiehon’s dynamic is absolutely endearing. With giggles, inside jokes and vivid imagination, they paint the scene for us: two young boys who are exposed to the trials and tribulations of what it means to grow up. Flaws in the educational system, family drama, drugs, and even darker themes are explored in the hour-long play. The one thing that is consistent throughout it is the boys’ white shirts and the heartfelt chemistry between them as they experience the ups and downs of reaching adulthood. The only thing that pulls me out of their world every now and then are the countless scene changes that indicate another time jump. But even though some of these time-jumps span nearly a year, we still recognise Ben and Oscar at the other end.
Big Boys manages to create a heart-warming connection between the two boys and the audience, and I can’t help but wish them nothing but the best as they face those staple milestones of growing up. Their first fight and how they noticeably begin ‘growing apart’ feel extremely personal and so raw that it is almost as if we are a part of this friendship that is slowly crumbling. Big Boys is an endearing piece about friendship and the transition to adulthood while exploring themes of mental health and the importance of communication.
Big Boys is playing at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 10 July 2021. For more information and tickets visit Lion and Unicorn Theatre online.