Theatre Review: STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS – The Lowry, Salford

Star Boy Productions

From fake marriages to scam contracts, STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS examine the psyche of African migrants in Europe

To mark the launch night of the newly opened THE DOCK space, STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS perform the first of two productions for WEEK 53 at The Lowry.

Created by Etuwe Bright Junior, Aloys Kwaakum and Lateef Babatunde of Star Boy Collective, STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS attempts to examine the psyche of African migrants in Europe, poking fun at the clandestine survival tactics they resort to in order to remain in the UK.

The innovative 65-minute production forms part of WEEK 53, a two-week long festival of national and international works performed in unusual spaces at The Lowry, including areas normally off-limits to the public.

From fake marriages and passport swaps to scam contracts, sugar mammas and internet relationships, STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS is certainly unique in both its content and its delivery. The performance space is set out like a church with hard-back chairs arranged in rows like church pews and paper programmes are handed out to the audience like an order of service. Junior, Aloys and Lateef act as Pastors, using their combined years of experience to preach to their ‘congregation’ about how to stay in the country as an African asylum-seeker.

The content is fast-paced and entertaining, making light of serious subjects such as deportation, homelessness and asylum. While the Pastors deliver the ‘tips’ in a deadpan and serious manner, their advice on how to stay in the country is ludicrous, suggesting tactics like jumping up and down, acting like your crazy or pretending to have Ebola in order to avoid being deported.

The production also heavily relies on audience participation and aside from a few initial reservations, the crowd quickly get involved, clapping along to the opening gospel number “prayer is the key” and shouting out phrases like “Star Boy is good”. A young girl cops for a short sketch in which an African immigrant who can’t speak English attempts to seduce her by stripping off on stage and dancing. The Pastors words of wisdom are also put to the test when two members of the audience are pulled up on stage to take part in a ‘role play’ in which they attempt to sign on at the job centre, practicing their fake IDs and being ‘flexible’ with their answers.

While STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS is nothing like I’ve seen before, the show isn’t without its flaws. The production takes a bit of an odd turn about half way through when an exorcism suddenly takes place, interrupting the otherwise fast-paced nature of the show and leaving most of the audience dazed and confused. The gospel style delivery may also not be to everyone’s taste, with many members of the audience put ‘on the spot’ by the Pastors.

That said, STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS puts a contemporary and innovative spin on the usual taboo subjects of asylum and immigration and is well worth a watch if you’re a fan of alternative comedy.

3 out of 5 stars

STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS runs at The Lowry as part of WEEK 53 until 7 May