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Review: Boy Out The City (Lyric Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale


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The Lyric theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue is currently home to “A Queer Season In The West End” - a double bill of two new pieces of work which both received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Playing alongside each other each evening, I went along to catch both shows which features similarities in themes and storytelling – You can also check out my review of Bloody Elle, but for now what was my verdict on Declan Bennett’s Boy Out The City?


Premiering at Westival Music and Arts Festival in 2021, Boy Out The City is a completely autobiographical show created out of writing from Declan Bennett’s own private journals. Setting the scene in an all too familiar setting – the first lockdown in 2020, the show goes on to chart Declan’s journey as he moves out of London in the final months of the pandemic to live with his boyfriend in the Oxfordshire countryside. However, after his boyfriend moves to Atlanta for a job for 6 months, Declan is left alone with only himself and the demons of his past for company. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and the ability to overcome trauma from your past in a bid to move forward.



You may be familiar with Declan Bennett for his multiple stage roles, having recently starred in Moulin Rouge on Broadway with West End roles including Once and Jesus Christ Superstar. You may also know him from his time on Eastenders or even the 1990s band Point Break. The one consistency through all of these roles is the sheer talent Declan has as an actor and a singer. He can now add his talents as a writer to this consistently impressive list, as his writing in Boy Out The City is staggeringly good.


A master in the craft of storytelling, Declan’s ability to bring his own life and history on the stage is always captivating, with incredibly versatile methods being used to convey this. From a seemingly tongue-in-ch Christmas carol leading into a real gut punch moment to dancing around his lonely house or flitting back and forth to the past and present with ease, what transpires is a rapid-paced 60 minutes that never pauses for breath. The result is an ever-exciting show that draws you in from the opening moment and keeps you going until the show closes with its own satisfying conclusion.



Tackling themes including homophobia and mental health, Boy Out The City packs a huge emotional punch, delivering these themes sensitively in a remarkably powerful way. There are moments in Declan’s story many of us watching in the audience could relate to but hearing him speak about it with such stark honesty ensured a captivating watch throughout.


Co-created and directed by Nancy Sullivan, there was a real sense of meticulous planning when it came to executing this story on the fairly large Lyric stage, but it paid off tremendously with every choice delivering for maximum impact. An impressive use of lighting design by Alex Lewer transformed Reuben Speed’s set, leading to some beautiful effects.


If you have been lucky enough to see Declan on stage before, you will already be acutely aware of what a talented performer he is. When it is his own story he is telling and he is playing himself, the performance level is off the scale altogether. Filling the stage completely, Declan delivers the kind of world-class performance others could only dream of, connecting with the audience flawlessly. Through stark revelations of his own history and struggles, comedic moments delivered with precision, and the emotional undertone that consistently accompanies the story, his performance brings his own writing to life in a way only he can.



It is clear to see why Boy Out The City has been met with acclaim in its previous productions. Declan Bennett’s impeccable knack for storytelling is only matched by his outstanding performance. Brutally honest, raw, and relatable, Boy Out The City is an important watch that tackles serious subjects with sensitivity but remains entertaining all the while. The impact this has creates a thought-provoking but ultimately exceptional story. The show talks about Declan’s struggle when moving out of the city into a new home, but when he’s on a West End stage, there is no doubt he is exactly where he belongs. A brilliant play by a truly terrific talent.


Boy Out The City plays at the Lyric Theatre until 30th September. Tickets from nimaxtheatres.com


Photos by Colin J Smith

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