Review: The Beatles Were A Boyband (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose)
Updated: Aug 15
F-bomb theatre’s return to the Fringe is gloriously girly but rather insubstantial
To make a show about women’s safety in 2022, you must also make a show about the ways that women deal with it. In F-Bomb Theatre’s The Beatles Were A Boyband, we meet three young women living in Scotland responding to the violence against women on the news, the fear they experience walking home, and the harassment they receive online for speaking out. The production has recently won a prestigious Fringe First Award from The Scotsman and does what a lot of feminist theatre is scared to do; be “girly”.
It takes bravery to bathe the stage in pink, to make pop culture references that centre on women and girls like Bridesmaids, Legally Blonde, and TikTok trends, and even to write dialogue that takes its influences from work targeting teenage girls. Playwright Rachel O’Regan, and F-Bomb Theatre as a whole, are unafraid to make work that celebrates femininity while still calling for better treatment and safety for women. But even though the references are up-to-date, the actual topics of discussion are ones audiences have seen on stage many times before. The rise of incel culture, the futility of activism, the experience of clutching keys whilst walking home. These are all worthy and valid points of discussion, but they never stray far from the territory of white feminist Instagram infographics. This is a show spoken with an authentic voice, but as a piece of feminist theatre, it fails to touch on unexplored points or present them in a new way.
Most of the performance takes place in the three characters’ flat, where they worry about making rent and debate pop culture (for example which is the better boyband, One Direction or the Beatles). The main plot centres around Daisy (Linzi Devers), a passionate and slightly ditzy influencer who goes viral for her response to a “not all men” comment and becomes an activist. Meanwhile Violet (Sally Cairns) is falling into a depressive episode, and Heather’s (Kirsten Hutchison) tough exterior is beginning to crack under pressure.
If this sounds like less of a plot and more a series of moderately uneventful character arcs, that is largely what The Beatles Were a Boyband is. It seems like the concept, characters, and possibly even the dialogue were conceived before the plot. Those themes are important, the dialogue is quippy and sincere, and the cast all deliver superb performances that tell us everything we need to know about their characters. All that is true, but as an hour-long piece of Fringe theatre it seems ill at ease with its form. The pacing and story seem better suited to a six-episode TV series; something where we can enjoy these characters interacting to their fullest and experience their journeys at a casual pace. That may mean this in its current form The Beatles Were A Boyband does not live up to its potential, but it does highlight just how talented O’Regan, director Aimee Shields, and the entire cast are, and how bright their futures will be.
Whispers from the Crowd: "It was phenomenal. This stuff absolutely needs to be said. Everyone should come see it, even alone if they can." "I think it has the power to actually make a change." "Yeah, I liked it. It was pretty powerful."
The Beatles Were A Boyband will play at Gilded Balloon Patterhoose in The Big Yin until August 13
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