When Luke Barnes was asked to create a piece for the National Youth Theatre, he wanted to make it in the North West of England where he was born. The result, Lost Boys, appears at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre following a workshop with young people in Skelmersdale.
This is a gig-theatre piece in which the narrative is driven by a series of songs by Dom Coyote. A number of characters act as narrators, with Louis Carrington opening and closing the show: the town he grew up in has everything, he says, “but if you’re not from here you might think it’s shit”.
One thing the town doesn’t have is a theatre. Alexandre King plays a young man returning to his home town from drama school, looking to make work with young people from the local community. “So you’re making wanky theatre to convince people that theatre isn’t wanky,” comes the challenge – he has a hard job on his hands, as, at times it feels, did Barnes and director Zoe Lafferty.
The play explores what it is to grow up in a tough but close-knit town where everyone knows everyone else. In particular it examines a culture of toxic masculinity whereby boys learn to disrespect girls because that’s how they’re told love works.
Lost Boys is at its best in the episodes where young men express sensitivity, only to be branded as weak, though this message is somewhat blurred by the infectious energy of the production. This is potent, passionate material, but it would pack more of a punch if it was more tightly focused.