Sunday, 6 October 2013

Radio Review: Imaginary Boys by Paul Magrs

Paul Magrs is one of those authors whose work is often misunderstood. He has no fear of silliness or camp, and so his work is all too often disregarded, by those many critics who see silliness as the same as disposable, or irrelevant. To view such material is to do it an injustice. Paul's work is often very silly, frequently camp, fantastic and impossible to categorise, but just because something is silly, doesn't mean it isn't also serious.

Paul writes with passion and honesty, and nowhere is this more evident than in his new radio play, Imaginary Boys, broadcast as Radio 4's Afternoon Drama on the 3rd of October. It's a strange, funny, wonderful piece, quietly subversive yet beautiful in its telling of the love between two young men. For a gay listener, it will of course have some extra poignancy, but anyone who was once young and has fallen, unexpectedly, in love - which is to say, everyone - will find something to recognise here.

James Baxter gives a strong, truthful performance as seventeen-year-old David, struggling with how his community perceives his developing sexuality. There is, from what I know of Paul's life, more than a little of the autobiographical in David's story, which makes it all the more affecting. All of the tiny cast are excellent, but it is Geoffrey Breton, as the painfully literal, inhumanly literate Lawrence who steals it. Lawrence is a Noveliser from Verbatim 6, a small planet about three hundred light years from Earth. Paul introduced the Novelisers in his Doctor Who plays Find and Replace and Ringpullworld, both part of the Companion Chronicles series, so there's a little bit of extra fun for Whoheads, knowing that this must take place in the universe of Iris Wildthyme and the Doctor.

But that's not important. It's not about science fiction, or magic realism, or any genre trappings. It's about love. About falling in love with someone you feel you shouldn't, but can't help loving. About falling in love with someone through their writing. About growing up and learning about love. It's really quite wonderful.

Imaginary Boys is still available to listen to for the next few days on BBC Radio 4.

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