Boys’ takes center stage at the Barbican

A Critical Overview of BOYS: Exploring Masculinity through Collaborative Theatre

BOYS is a theatrical performance that presents a fresh exploration of masculinity, using a collaborative and immersive approach to create an ethnically diverse ensemble of 10 male performers. Directed by Kane Husbands, founder of the PappyShow, the show captures the energy and passion of youth culture in the UK, with a focus on the physicality and emotional intensity of young men. BOYS presents a powerful commentary on contemporary masculinity, engaging with issues such as competitiveness, vulnerability, fear, and isolation. Through the use of playful games, improvisation, dance, and personal stories, the performers create a unique and engaging performance that challenges traditional notions of masculinity and celebrates diversity.

A Collaborative and Immersive Approach to Theatre

Kane Husbands’ method for creating the show is truly collaborative, using intense workshops in which the ensemble plays and improvises to create a fresh show. The performers never hide behind a fictional mask: each retains his individuality, introducing himself by name, revealing a telling detail of his own story. The ensemble is invited to play games, such as Statements, where they must step forward individually to share something about themselves. This allows the performers to connect with the audience on a personal level, creating an immersive experience that draws the audience into their world.

Playful Exploration of Masculinity

The show explores masculinity in all its guises, presenting the performers as athletic, powerful, and strong, moving just as lads on the street move. However, the show also challenges traditional notions of masculinity by exposing vulnerability and fear. Through the use of playful games, the performers explore the competitiveness and cliquishness of young men, while also celebrating diversity and personal expression. The choreography explores movement in response to different, powerful beats, with brief atmospheric clubbing scenes, and enthralling dances that give meaning to the forceful rhythms of Roly Botha’s curated soundtrack.

Heartbreaking Moments of Sadness and Isolation

BOYS is not just a celebration of youth culture; it also gives expression to intense experiences of sadness and isolation. Through personal stories, the performers explore the fear of risk-taking and the sense of time running out that is not just the preserve of older people. In some sequences, a boy is alone, moving in evocative silence, while in others, performers speak of what they wish they could say, revealing their innermost thoughts and feelings. These moments of vulnerability and honesty create an emotional resonance with the audience, drawing them into the performers’ world and highlighting the complexity of contemporary masculinity.


In conclusion, BOYS is a unique and powerful theatrical experience that celebrates the energy and passion of youth culture while also challenging traditional notions of masculinity. Kane Husbands’ collaborative and immersive approach allows the performers to connect with the audience on a personal level, creating a sense of intimacy and authenticity. Through playful exploration of competitiveness and vulnerability, the show presents a multifaceted portrait of contemporary masculinity, celebrating diversity and personal expression. However, it is the heart-breaking moments of sadness and isolation that create the emotional resonance that makes BOYS a truly unforgettable experience.