Broadway Baby Review

Rough Diamond

5 Stars

Reviewed by Tom King
August 15, 2011

View all my reviews

Five stars only go to a show that is to all intents perfect, that wakens something inside you and keeps you utterly captivated for an entire hour. As far as I’m concerned, Time for the Good Looking Boy is one of those shows.
Lloyd Thomas is absolutely captivating as The Boy, a South London kid from the estates with a heart of gold. He roams the stage with a streetwise swagger, radiating flashes of thuggish threat one minute, diffused by a boyish lopsided grin the next. It’s no easy task to hold an audience in your hand but he makes it seem like second nature, fully in the role and in the moment; the warm beating heart inside the tattered hoody.
Make no mistakes, this isn’t urban commentary. The Boy has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks but don’t expect a diatribe on knife crime and police brutality. He’s a family man; he cares about his girl, his mum, his sister and his friends. Our heart is fully with him as he weaves audience members into a reconstruction of a row with his girlfriend Sammy (responding quickly and in-character to whatever his chosen spectator throws at him). Five minutes later, argument over, lounging on the sofa, he seems to glow with an inner light when he describes looking into Sammy’s eyes and planning his future.
This warm, sincere thread is very involving but a one-note play isn’t a five-star play. What gives Good Looking Boy its extra value is the almost subconscious suggestion that all is not sweetness and warmth. Almost from the very beginning, subtle clues are woven into The Boy’s speech suggesting a catastrophe to come. And when it does the twist is so much bigger than expected that the change in direction causes your stomach to lurch.
A touching, melancholy portrait of a nice boy becoming a good man, the quality of this play and the performance at the centre of it make it obvious why Iqbal Khan is now plying his trade with Anthony Sher. If nothing else this is an opportunity to see top-flight theatre without the top-flight price or the five hour train journey. Time For The Good Looking Boy is a fringe gem, not to be missed.