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.
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.”