Volunteer Experience: Reviewing “Boys from The Blackstuff”

Stan Moorcrooft, one of our Wellbeing volunteers recently attended a performance of ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ at the National Theatre and shared the following review with us!

Saturday June 1st

“I travelled with Amalia to meet a group from the Wellbeing Centre to see a performance of Boys from the Blackstuff at the National Theatre.

Anyone old enough to remember this iconic TV series knew that the performance had a high bar to reach. The cliché to describe the series is, I think, ‘searing indictment,’ followed by ‘of the Thatcher years.’ Whilst this is true, it also does a disservice to the depth of originality and creativity involved in exploring the tensions created by mass unemployment on communities, families and relationships. In doing so, creating a unique cast of characters Chrissie, George, Loggo, Dixie. Finally, the most dramatically explosive character in the form of Yosser Hughes.

The stage adaption successfully recreated the atmosphere, wit, tension and volatility of the original Bleasdale TV show. Certainly, the stage Yosser lost none of his fearful impact. He is a character comparable to Lear in the tragic comedy of his terrible predicament. As the world of worklessness, the loss of stability, and the caprice of the benefits system engulfs the group, it is Yosser, who is most completely destroyed by the process.

But the play is also full of sparky scouse wit, the sharp sarcasm and undercurrent of suppressed rage. Whilst, in the character of George, we have encapsulated a lost past of solidarity, trade unionism, and hope.

Once or twice, the medium of theatre proved unable to capture the power and intimacy provided by the small screen. As, for example, in the following exchange.

Yosser: I’m desperate father.

Priest: Call me Dan.

Yosser: I’m desperate Dan.

On the small screen this is the tragicomedy of ultimate humiliation that reality serves up to Yosser in his moment of greatest pain, mocking his plight like a blind court jester. While on stage the drama of this moment, presented as it had to be on the wider canvas of the stage, lacked intimacy and impact, reduced to just a funny line.

But these are small complaints, the play was as fully engaging, funny, humane and enraging as the TV original.

This was a fantastic excursion, both to the wonderful South Bank setting and to a past brought to life.”

Written by Stan Moorcrooft

Volunteer Review of "Boys from the blackstuff" at national theatre