Thursday, September 21

The Beatles Were a Boy Band – The Gilded Balloon, Patter Hoose

In this 70-minute play, cleverly entitled The Beatles Were a Boy Band to appeal to a wide age range and both sexes, a network of social issues are explored: sexual predation mainly, but it is couched within the context of young people’s addiction to social media and trashy reality TV and the values it disseminates. It highlights those opportunistic young men who hide themselves within the cloak of anonymous tweets and memes and then torment and intimidate naïve young women, encouraged by this titillating diet of overtly sexualised media.

There is an example of real-life intimidation: a woman comedian being heckled by the crowd. Unlike a male comedian’s experience, the drunken heckler was laser focused on the performer’s physical attributes. As a woman, I know this to be true and something we can no longer ignore. If you’ve never been in that position, it’s hard to understand how threatening and demeaning it feels. Men face other issues, there’s no doubt about that, but rarely sexual humiliation on the public stage. In the example offered, no man responded to the comedian’s appeal. This is not my experience. Good men are there.

Women need good men to show respect for humanity by being vocal along with the likes of these young women. It is too easy to advise the girls themselves to tackle it or to avoid situations. That puts women in a virtual prison. The police system needs overhauling, and we all know that. How long is it going to take?

This witty, earnest, production could, possibly, be richer for including a positive masculine example. Respectful men in all walks of life need advocacy and encouragement to be noble in support of women.

The play ended with a powerful direct appeal (which made a nod to male support) and statistics which moved my theatre neighbour to near-tears, being a Canadian Sociologist and having direct experience of the École Polytechnique Massacre, where fourteen women were randomly slaughtered in the perpetrator’s fight against feminism in 1989.

According to statistics, 1.53 women each week are murdered in England and Wales by a current or ex-partner. Sixty-two percent at the hands of a partner. That leaves almost 40% of female murders in the hands of strangers. Concerning, don’t you think? Society has a role to play. Our politicians need to take this seriously. A safe society needs to be safe for everyone.

Society is made up of individuals. Individuals change society. The structure of society – the laws, the norms – are all possible to change, if there is a sea-change of willingness. The Beatles Were a Boy Band is a direct appeal for positive change in a world dominated by click-bites and superficial communication. 

This is the fourth politically motivated play I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. It isn’t just jokes and beer tents. Edinburgh is a brilliant place for seeding thoughts and change.

In the wake of the Spanish football kiss controversy, writer, Rachel O’Regan, and the cast of F-Bomb Theatre, are tackling a topical subject. Where do enthusiastic expressions of delight end (in the case of football, I’ve seen many a male player kiss after a goal) and invasion of privacy/sexual predation begin? Feminism and the female form in general is a sensitive subject, a subject open to miscarriages of justice, exploitation on both sides of the coin, fear and discomfort and it is a necessary topic to explore.

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 27th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.