Fringe 2009, BATS Theatre
February 3-9 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

UPON ENTERING BATS to see Buddha Boy one takes in first a shirtless, slim Asian man meditating under what appears to be a tall tent (actually a stylised tree), who unsurprisingly turns out to be the title character. Then you notice the bed to the side of the tree, surrounded by rubbish and alcohol. The play begins with the disheveled Sophie sitting up in this bed. It seems she has been there for some time, passing in and out of lucidity. You realise fairly early on that she is seriously depressed, following an unspecified disappointment. Sophie reads about the ‘Buddha Boy’ in a newspaper article – a 17-year-old who has been meditating under a tree for 10 months, without eating, drinking or sleeping. She travels to meet him in her alcohol-induced dreams (or possibly on some other plane of reality?) Janu, the ‘Buddha Boy’ is far from spiritually enlightened – he is also trying to escape from the world and more particularly, his childhood friend Maya. The rest of the play charts their healing influence on each other.

Although the interactions between Sophie and Janu are at first humorous and touching, they become somewhat repetitive due to a lack of dynamism in the staging. Given the magic realism in the script, which on the whole is very well written and observant, I would expect a more imaginative production. For a play that charts emotional healing there was also lack of observable character development. I don’t really lay the blame for this at the feet of the actors – Sophia Elisabeth as Sophie, Vincent Wong as Janu and Sandi Malesic as Maya – but again at the fairly static staging which doesn’t seem to have taken up the imaginative opportunities this play offers, or plumbed its depths.

However, bearing in mind the timeframes and budgets available to Fringe plays in general this is a fair and very earnest effort.