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  • Ariane Branigan

★★★★ Our Boy, Edinburgh Fringe Review

Our Boy is running at the Fringe until 20 August, at the Royal Scots Club.

Our Boy tackles upsetting theme of sexual assault with the sensitivity it deserves: after Joe (Dorian Todd), a 14-year-old autistic boy, is raped on his way home from school, we witness the disintegration - and eventual rebuilding - of his family as they deal with the fallout of the horrific act.

We open with a fraught conversation between estranged parents Karen (Angela Milton) and Andrew (Kareem Nasif) - Karen, who has been at a breaking point since Andrew left two years ago, demands that he “picks up the pieces” before she abruptly walks out. From there, things quickly devolve into chaos; Andrew doesn’t know any of Joe’s routines or preferences, resulting in frequent screaming matches. Karen, meanwhile, feels conflicted between returning to her son and taking the time she desperately needs to recover.

The three actors brilliantly capture a heartbreaking microcosm of grief and confusion; Andrew is hurt and dejected after working himself to the bone to provide for his wife and son, Karen is consumed by the guilt she feels in letting Joe have more independence, and Joe himself can’t understand why his parents won’t just get back together again. Our Boy is particularly notable for the nuanced, empathetic approach it takes towards Joe’s parents; while both have obviously made mistakes throughout the course of his life, we are never in any doubt that they just want what’s best for Joe - and each other.

Although Joe’s sexual assault is the instigating factor in his family’s breakdown, it is also somewhat relegated to the sidelines after the first few minutes of the play. However, the choice to focus on the more indirect consequences of the rape actually results in a more powerful narrative overall; we see the ripple effects of one terrible crime play out for both the victim and their family, months after it occurred.

Once Andrew gradually repairs his relationship with Joe through the medium of video games, and Karen returns from her mother’s house, the two have a heartfelt conversation regarding the state of their relationship; they agree to try co-parenting again, much to Joe’s delight. Through this, Our Boy ends on a tentatively hopeful note; while it is clear that there are no perfect solutions to a problem as complex as the one facing Joe’s family, the willingness of both parents to heal and compromise with one another points to a promising future.


Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre's STAR project offers confidential, emotional and practical support to young people, including all members of the trans community and non-binary people, aged 12 to 18 in Edinburgh and the Lothians, who have experienced rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual bullying or circulating an intimate picture without your consent. Find out more about STAR here.


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