Friday, 27 January 2012

Whatsonstage: Five Reasons To See ... Belt Up's The Boy James

Following outings at the Edinburgh Fringe and Southwark Playhouse in January 2011, Belt Up Theatre's The Boy James returns to London running at The Goldsmith on Southwark Bridge Road from 26 January to 11 February 2012.

An original story inspired by Peter Pan and the life of JM Barrie, The Boy James is a dark, beautiful tale of one boy’s awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood. Play with him, and take his hand as you lead him back to Neverland.

Jethro Compton returns to the role of The Boy, alongside Serena Manteghi as The Girl and Dominic Allen as James. Staged as part of Southwark Playhouse's 'Out and About' programme, the show makes a new home above a bar and restaurant originally built as part of the London Brigade Fire Station. In typical Belt Up style the space is transforming into a fully formed immersive environment.

Belt Up Theatre give us their five reasons to see the show.

1. It made Stephen Fry cry

In 2011 the world’s favourite polymath, egged on by some Belt Up fans, came to see The Boy James at Southwark Playhouse. As with many audience members, the show struck a chord and led Fry to tweet, "Just been knocked out by The Boy James, Belt Up's interactive show about JM Barrie… Still drying my eyes."

2. An original story inspired by Peter Pan and the life of JM Barrie

There is something about the work of JM Barrie and the story of Peter Pan that manages to reach the inner child of every audience member; the idea of not-wanting to grow up is universal. The Boy James is a dark, beautiful tale of one boy’s awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood.

3. It was created by the award-winning Belt Up Theatre

Belt Up has been working across the UK over the last three years. Their unique style of performance has created a great following and a number of shows including The Tartuffe, The Trial, Lorca is Dead and Macbeth which was staged in the House of Detention in Clerkenwell and will be returning later this year.

Belt Up has been hailed as a company "changing the future of British theatre" by the Observer and as Edinburgh "Fringe Royalty" by Time Out.

4. It has some amazing reviews

The show has been running now, on and off, for a year and a half. Over that time it has received some incredible write-ups including three four-star reviews from Whatsonstage describing it as "a magical experience" and "flawless". It has also been called "moving and beautifully played" by writer Neil Gaiman, and called everything from "riveting," "wonderful" and "superbly realised" to "Belt Up’s finest performance" by reviewers from The Stage, The Scotsman, Fest Mag and Edinburgh Evening News.

5. It’s your last chance to see it before the show flies off to Australia

After the enormous success of the show in the UK, the company is heading off to Australia for a month-long run at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Unless you fancy a trip to South Australia, be sure to book your tickets for the London run whilst they’re still available.

The Boy James opened at The Goldsmith on Southwark Bridge Road on 26 January where it continues until 11 February 2012. Tickets are available from the Southwark Playhouse box office.


This has been taken from

Exeunt Magazine interviews Jethro Compton on Belt Up, 'The Boy James' and growing up

I don’t think any of us anticipated this reaction when we first put it on,” admits Belt Up Theatre’s co-founder Jethro Compton. “I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes people cry.” But they do cry. Inspired by the work and life of Peter Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie, The Boy James is the company’s longest running and most successful production to date, and has been making audiences weep since it debuted at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe as part of their ambitious House Above project in which they took over and transformed part of C Venues.

It has proved a curiously divisive production, one with a tendency to trigger extreme reactions in its audience. Certainly not every response has been as enthusiastic as Stephen Fry’s (his tweet, “still drying my eyes”, helped cement the show’s reputation), but Compton believes this is to be expected as it’s “not a narrative driven show. It’s more of an emotional journey.” Some people are less comfortable with that than others, he concedes, unable to resist a dig about critics “hiding behind their notebooks,” but for those who do connect with the production it often proves to be an incredibly powerful experience. In Edinburgh “people would come back a few days later to tell us they couldn’t get it out of their heads. We’ve been doing the show for so long now and are still getting similar reactions.”

When The Boy James was first performed it was somewhat buried amidst a number of other shows which the company were presenting under the banner of The House Above, so it was only seen by around 300 people initially. Yet of all Belt Up’s work it’s this piece which has gone on to have the longest life. The production transferred to Southwark Playhouse in London in January 2011 and the venue is again hosting the show, though this time off-site at The Goldsmith, a nearby pub which the company are transforming into a by now familiar Belt Up space. Belt Up, for many of their productions, favours non-traditional seating, sofas and floor cushions, a soft-edged and atmospheric performance space. Or rather a space within a space. “It’s not site specific,” Compton says firmly. “We’re making our own site. There’s no point us putting it on in a theatre and then spending time and money making it not look like a theatre, we may as well put it on somewhere else.”

This use of space is integral to the kind of theatre Belt Up want to make. “We’re not a devising company. We have a script [in this case by Alexander Wright] and a director with a vision. The audience is part of the story; [in The Boy James] the audience are his imaginary play-friends. If a character looks at an audience member, we want it to be OK for them to look back; if a character asks an audience member a question, we want them to feel like they can answer. We want them to feel like they can interact with us and, with a long running show, those are the moments that make it special and keep it alive.”

The company, though still comparatively new, have already established a particular aesthetic, a recognisable style, one that ‘places its audience at the centre of the production’. They’re currently working on a revised version of their production of Macbeth to be staged in the vaults of a former prison beneath the streets of Clerkenwell, a haunting space they filled with melancholic wailing and the unsettling scrape of blade on stone. “We can do a show like The Boy James and a show like Macbeth and they are completely different, the space is different, the audience is different, and yet there is something inherently Belt Up about them both.” Though some of their stylistic devices can seem a little too pat at times, they pursue them with commitment and consistency. One of the reasons Compton believes that audiences feel so strongly about The Boy James is the way the piece denies its audience closure. “As with all our work there’s no defined end point. The play comes to an end but the story continues. The characters remain in the space.” Compton, who works predominantly as a producer as well as playing the title role, is a fluent and passionate speaker, and you can sense within him the clear-eyed drive that has helped the company establish itself so quickly. The company was formed in 2008 by Compton, Dominic J Allen, James Wilkes and Alexander Wright, when they were still studying at the University of York. That same year they made their Edinburgh debut, winning the Edinburgh International Festival Award for their immersive Red Room project. By the time they graduated in 2009, they had already made a name for themselves as a company. “With a mixture of stupidity and ambition we’ve thrown ourselves into things,” says Compton with a laugh. The Red Room, described by The Stage as a ‘boudoir theatre’ in which they presented five full productions daily, “could have gone horribly wrong” but it didn’t and instead it provided a springboard for future projects. Soon afterwards they became company in residence at York Theatre Royal which “gave us a home, gave us a purpose, and gave us a support network.” Compton attributes their success to a mixture of luck and hard work and the fact that “by the time we graduated we already had a reputation and work lined up. We’d started building those relationships while we were still at university.” He also acknowledges that they’d set up hurdles for themselves by the very nature of the work they do. They had to be as prolific as they were, to do so much in so short a space of time, because of need as much as want. “Because of the nature of the work we do we can only have audiences of a certain size, so that was a challenge.”

Their plans for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are somewhat scaled down – at least by Belt Up standards, which means only one or two new shows instead of the nine productions they juggled as part of the House Above (where Compton was averaging about three hours sleep a night) but they are, he says, planning to go big once again for Edinburgh 2013.

Compton’s energies in the main are now focussed on producing instead of acting, but he’s reluctant to relinquish the Boy just yet. “If it was another show I’d get another actor in, but because it’s The Boy James, because it’s that part, I haven’t.” He enjoys the challenges inherent in the role, the scope for interaction and unpredictability. “You experiment and you learn from mistakes. As an actor, it lifts you up and revitalises you.”

In the spring the company will be taking The Boy James and another show, Outland, to Adelaide and there’s every sign the show will continue beyond this, a state of affairs Compton seems happy with. “We went through a period where we created a lot of work very quickly whereas now we’re enjoying touring one show that grows and improves over time.” The Belt Up boys are, it seems, growing up. “We used to go wild because we had the energy to do that, but now we’re concerned with becoming stable, with becoming a company that doesn’t burn out.”

The Boy James will be presented by Southwark Playhouse, offsite at The Goldsmith, from 25th January to 11th February. For tickets and further information visit the Southwark Playhouse website.

Belt Up’s Macbeth will run from 17th April to 18th May at the House of Detention in Clerkenwell with previews starting 12th April. For further details visit the production website.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

First Image from the new set - The Boy James

This is the first image of our new performance space for 'The Boy James' at The Goldsmith in Southwark.

And below is a photo of the space before we arrived.

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at

Tickets for the London run can be booked here.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The. Bo'y, Jame:s - Google Alerts gone mad

When we announced 'The Boy James' return to London (and trip to Australia) we set up a Google Alert to let us know when the show was mentioned online. The following are some of the headlines we've been sent...

One child killed, one badly injured in Wilton crash

The boy, James Eggleston, of Corinth, was in a 2007 Dodge Caravan with three other passengers, his siblings. Police said his mother, Shiho Price, 39, was ...

A Different Kind of Fairy Tale Chapter 2 Story

Over her shoulder the boy James was looking at me with sad eyesYoull be happy I promise Em I planned this whole thing without a choice and I chose ...

Fan Fiction - A little slythiern - Wattpad

The two babies where born lily was holding the girl who was born an hour after the boy. James was holding the boy. They where trying to decided names. ...

Fanfic: epilouge, Harry Potter

Best be quick while no one's looking. "Ginny murmured into her eldest biological son's ear. The boy, James, looked left and right then ran straight into a platform ...

Baby Boy On the Way for Jeremy Sisto – Moms & Babies – Moms ...

Shannon – was thinking the same thing Ballerina Ugh Poor Kid Are they going to name the boy James Astronaut. Jen on December 22nd 2011 ...

Fan Fiction - Face Your Fate Three Learn to be Lonely - Wattpad

“My mom said it's because your mom doesn't love you.” “James,” a woman reprimanded the boy. “Stop, that's mean.” “It's the truth,” the boy, James, said back. ... - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | UK News ...

THE BOY JAMES ... I cant wait for the end game because I would not put money on the fact that the boy James doesn't appear before the courts in connection ...

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Rehearsal Pictures from THE BOY JAMES

The following are pictures from the rehearsal room. They aren't really pictures of rehearsals...

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Boy James: A Younger Theatre interviews Jethro Compton

“One of our more ‘Marmite’ shows,” is how Jethro Compton describes Belt Up Theatre’s current venture, The Boy James. “Some people hate it and some people absolutely love it.”

The Boy James began life in 2009 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a sideline to a programme of more high profile performances The Trial and Tartuffe. The show ran every other day and admitted an audience of only 25 people. Compton, who juggles his role as The Boy in the show with his responsibilities as both Producer and Lighting Designer, notes, “It’s weird that two years later we’re still doing it.”

It has become something of a flagship production for Belt Up. Returning to London for a three-week run in association with Southwark Playhouse (where Belt Up have been performing since 2009), the show will then journey to Australia to represent the company at the Adelaide Festival. But how will a new, international crowd take to Belt Up’s mischievous ways? The company is known for its unconventional staging and audience interaction and this show is no exception.

“Basically, the audience are invited into a study, where they prepare to go on an adventure,” explains Compton. “Whether that adventure does or doesn’t happen is not clear.” The Boy James is inspired by Peter Pan and the life of J.M. Barrie. The dialogue between the characters and the audience centres around the idea of growing up – or rather of not wanting to grow up. The character of James struggles throughout the play to bid farewell to his childhood self and put The Boy to rest. “It’s not a narrative show,” explains Compton. “It’s really bizarre in that way. It’s not storytelling in the way we usually tell stories. It’s all about the relationship that the audience has with the character of The Boy and how that starts and ends.”

Compton is quick to admit that this unconventional approach has divided critics. The Boy James has received criticism from some individuals. “I think that’s because it’s not the kind of show you can sit behind a notepad and write about,” says Compton. “You need to be feeling it.” In stark contrast to the negative responses, one of the best endorsements The Boy James could have received came fromStephen Fry on Twitter. He was one of many who left the show at the end of an evening in floods of tears. According to Compton, it can be anything from one audience member with a tear in their eye to the whole lot sobbing. With Fry, (“Just been knocked out by The Boy James – still drying my eyes”) the company struck gold.

“To have the Stephen Fry thing – that gave the show a boost and allowed us to continue doing the show,” remembers Compton. “It’s quite an amazing thing to have the Fry quote because people read The Guardian or whatever paper they read and when they read a bad review they will trust it. When Stephen Fry comes out with a positive quote, people think ‘Well I like him and he likes that so therefore maybe I will like that’.”

It’s easy to consider the mounting pressure on a young company sich as Belt Up. Two 5-star sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and some high profile admirers must make for high expectations. “We try not to think about that too much,” says Compton. “We started making the work that we wanted to make, telling the stories that we wanted to tell. We’ve always tried to keep that at the centre of it.”

The question of how a production translates from a Fringe stage to a London one is also crucial. When Belt Up made the transition, it found its work didn’t impress quite so effortlessly as it had done before. “When we came to London for the first time, we weren’t just a fringe company that people quite liked,” explains Compton. “There was an expectation of our work. People were like ‘Well there are loads of young companies – what’s different about you?’ and so when people were blindfolded and thrown into a space, they were a bit like ‘Oh no, not this again’.”

Returning to Edinburgh in 2010 brought its own daunting level of expectation from audiences. Coming back after a prior season peppered with glowing reviews, the company were met with an attitude that Compton describes as “Go on then – impress us.” But the company is still young, still learning and still prone to making mistakes – and so it should be. If, as Compton points out, an audience enters a space with ridiculous expectations, viewers are unlikely to drop their guard even with the ten minutes of participatory childhood games that start the show.

Adopting the role of producer for a young company, as Compton has, adds another dimension of pressure. “I never wanted to be a producer,” Compton recalls. “It just kind of happened. I did the lighting which led to doing all the technical side of things which led to being a production manager and doing budgets, and I then ended up realising that the thing I enjoy doing is producing. The more I did it, the more I realised it’s actually what I want to do.” Being taken seriously is still the challenge with which Compton most identifies. He clearly believes that producing is not a skill you can learn on a course – you learn through doing. And there is support available to young producers. The office from which he works is provided by Stage One, a trust set up to help the next generation of commercial producers. So why aren’t more young people getting into production right now?

“Some people see producers as facilitators, which is not what I do,” says Compton, engaging with the common misconception that producers deal only with logistics. “I have an interest in taking a show that I like or coming up with an idea and then putting it together. And the great thing about being a producer is that I don’t have to wait for someone to give me a job. I know so many young people out there who are unable to get work and I don’t have to worry about that because I’m the one making the work happen. It’s a great feeling, especially if the work is successful.”

This interview is by A Younger Theatre. Click here to visit their website.

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at