Boy Stroke Girl, Etcetera Theatre

By guest critic Jo Trainor

“There aren’t many feminine girls who like Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, and vintage motorcycles.”

This line comes after protagonist Peter has met Blue, a non-binary waiter stroke artist, and is trying to explain to his friends why he’s interested in Blue. His friend Sara says this infuriating phrase as part of an explanation as to why Peter has been attracted to tomboys in the past and so might still fancy Blue if they turn out to be male. Peter responds by saying that he doesn’t really respect women who dress in a feminine way. 

Boy Stroke Girl offers a thought-provoking concept: can you fall in love with someone without knowing their gender?What a brilliant idea to discuss on stage. But after this scene, more outdated and ridiculous views are regurgitated as though they were perfectly reasonable opinions to have. Although it’s difficult to date the play, Peter calls himself a Corbynite which suggests the setting is fairly recent – recent enough that people no longer think that liking Doctor Who is uncool, that we’ve got over the idea that social media is only for vacuous people who share things no one cares about, and that feminists don’t like to interfere with other cultures that oppress women.

Blue doesn’t want people to judge them on their gender, or to give them any labels, an entirely reasonable request. But during the play they suffer some outrageous hatred from characters trying to work out whether they’re a boy or a girl. Illaria Ciardelli portrays the difficult role with just the right mix of vulnerability and vexation. It’s just a shame the script makes Blue so judgemental themselves. They don’t like organised religion, people with a gang of friends, people who go on dates in coffee shops; the list appeared to be somewhat endless. It’s hard to invest in a character who you know would pretty quickly decide they dislike you. 

You want to go into Boy Stroke Girl and question how you would react if you met Blue, but the poor script means it’s just not possible. If another playwright could take a go at the topic that would be good. 

Boy Stroke Girl runs through 12 March.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon. 

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