Well, I thought that in my time with Edward’s Boys we’d pretty much covered it all on the innuendoes and the filth – but how wrong I was! Westward Ho! delivered whole new levels of euphemism and sexual outrage, each one more excruciatingly hilarious than the last.
Inevitably, the humour was delivered most finely by the older boys – they have more experience of riding the waves of laughter and have a better grasp of subtlety; certainly, a slyly raised eyebrow was enough to set the audience rolling in the aisles. Having said this, I was enormously impressed by the standard of the younger boys – even more than any other Edward’s Boys’ production, I think. There were some considerable parts for them (the three wives, for example) and they really did step up and take ownership of their roles. As ever, the boys’ performances had the mark of your commitment to the text upon them. Although it was such difficult stuff, you still ensured that they clearly understood every single word so that the audience, through them, were able to do so too. It really was seriously impressive and very pleasing to see such young boys get to grips with tough text and take command of the stage – and wonderful to recognise that there is such strength in depth.
The concept of apprenticeship does really seem to be so prevalent in the company. I think this is the chief reason why the younger boys are becoming better and better performers. The older boys in the lead roles command such respect that the younger boys so clearly look up to them and want to learn. This is not, however, something that only the boys can be praised for, because at the heart of it all is your direction and, having been through the process, I know that it’s your trust in the boys that means they can trust each other. You treat them (us) like a professional company. They (we) are not spoonfed. Yes, you go through the text closely and even make artistic decisions, but so often you tell boys to work on their own or to go away and play with their lines, or even (in that particular case in Oxford) to withdraw entirely and let the boys (us) take control of it all by them(our)selves. We all know that you’re a brilliant director in terms of your vision for the plays and their theatrical potential, but I firmly believe that in addition to this, one aspect that makes our work particularly special is the fact that you seem to know exactly when to let the boys get on with it. This shows you trust them, and so the older boys trust you, and, as they take control, the younger boys trust them in their turn and they all learn. And this brings out the absolute best in every performer throughout the company every time. This trust and faith in each other and the play at large absolutely comes through on stage. How else could such young boys be bold enough to perform an almost unheard of and practically impenetrable play such as Westward Ho!?
And it also reflects the profound strength running throughout the company. The boys seemed completely chuffed with the final performance, and they had every right to be so – as do you.
And I couldn’t ever tell you that I don’t wish I was back performing with Edward’s Boys. You know full well that I miss it desperately, but having the honour to watch a performance as superb as that comes as close as possible to making me satisfied with being a mere spectator. And proud.