Romford Market, Essex (1985-1990) is the setting of David Eldridge's smash-hit play, Market Boy, at the National Theatre, SE1. And Market Boy refers to the boys working in the market stalls of Romford Market, not the kind favoured for favours by certain Lib Dem MP's. They are commonly referred to as rent boys. Hope that doesn't disappoint too many of you.
The play opens in 1985 with shy, naive Boy (Danny Worters) forced into work by his single mum on the trader’s shoe stall. Boy (as he is referred to throughout the play) realises quickly that there’s an art to selling stilettos and he better grasp it quickly. He will need to learn a good wind-up, learn the pull of cash, learn drugs, learn sex, and learn to survive male rivalry.
In real terms, this boy has everything to learn.
The characters range from Boy's boss, a ladies man in skintight ski-pants, to a psychotic Falklands vet, now record dealer, who discovers rave culture on holiday in Ibiza. And that is forgetting the fish staller wife who becomes a post-op fish staller bloke.
But perhaps my favourite element was how the 80s nostalgic element is stalked by the freakish figure - Lady Thatcher herself. Apologies Dave Cameron, I hear you have had different types of thoughts about said Lady. Similar to the figure in Billy Elliott -Mrs T (remember Mr T, now that was Real 1980s) appears here in various guises, yet at all times, the blue power suit and chunky ankles remain indisguisable. Incidentally, why do all successful female politicians, and even the wives of successful male politicians have chunky ankles...think Cherie, Laura, Hillary, Condie?
The play itself is both a sharply realised proximation of a market and a metaphor for Thatcherite Britain. In many ways market life is built around a family atmosphere, but this only belies the ruthless individualism of Thatcherite days. And Eldridge brings this point to bear in the end as the market declines into backstabbing, bankruptcy and personal misery. The eighties free market dissolves on stage into the nineties freefall recession.
But don't be mistaken, the play is far from consumed by heavy political overtones. It is a great night of fun-bold, fresh, and daring fun. The plot lacks substance at times, but we are talking about the age of Dallas, Dynasty, a still black Michael Jackson, and "by the power of Greyskull you HAD the power."
Liz's ticket tip:
'All this and just for a tenner, Guv'?
Yes, it is part of the National Theatre £10 Travelex season.
Oh, and you know that after the interval you can move to any seat you prefer in the theatre? Well, you do now.
Culture for the masses?! Now Maggie, that is my kind of "opportunity for all"
But don't delay as only 22 performances left (on until 24th Aug) and the £10 seats go quickly. I went this past Friday and it was rather full. all sections.
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