Bombs, riots, fires and fighting – its all just in a day’s play for two small boys in Belfast in 1970. Even the rubber bullets are just a souvenir to treasure. The tiny Trafalgar Studio 2 becomes the playground of Mojo and Mickybo as they explore a world going crazy around them. Jo Fletcher-Cross was at the first night…
In Trafalgar Studio 2, a grey stage painted with a retro curved line over the floor and up the wall, is empty except for two chairs. But from the moment Mojo (Martin Brody) and Mickybo (Benjamin Davies) enter, we are transported to a hot Belfast summer, to tarmac melting streets full of gossiping, smoking women and drunken old soldiers guarding bonfires and a simmering, unspoken tension that barely touches the two boys.
Mojo and Mickybo are a team, their names making one great sounding gang name that they cry whenever they embark on another adventure; Mojo Mickybo off to conquer the world. From the moment they meet in the park, Mickybo digging a hole with a stick – in the hope of finding treasure, or digging to Australia or China – the boys are best friends, rolling down a hill for two days simply for the fun of it and promising to stand together in the face of the local bullies.
Brody and Davies play a host of characters, switching between the wide-eyed innocence of two small boys to a drunken father to a storytelling housewife with dizzying dexterity and boundless energy. They literally bounce off the walls playing the cheeky kids, having a good time wherever they go.
Belfast in 1970, however, is not a peaceful place, though the impact of this on the boys is limited. The sky is red because something is burning, there are rubber bullets in the street to play with because there have been riots, and Mojo’s dad goes off on mysterious errands, but this doesn’t interrupt their good times. Their parents love them and have a laugh with them, and don’t ever mention their beliefs or allegiances to their children. We have no idea whether they are Catholic or Protestant, though there is a slight hint that they might come from different backgrounds – Mickybo is from over the bridge and Mojo is from up the road, and the big boys that plague Mickybo don’t like anyone from up the road.
Jonathon Humphrey’s tight direction and Owen McCafferty’s colourful, sharp and spare writing don’t allow for any sentimentality, even when tragedy inevitably makes an impact. Instead, the utter desperation and sadness of intolerance and hatred corrupting even innocent children is allowed to speak for itself, a point that hits hard in today’s terrorist-beleaguered London.
This is a short, funny, heartbreaking play that delivers a hard message while making you wish you were nine years old again, or at least that you were innocent of all the horrors of the world once more.
Mojo Mickybo is at Trafalgar Studio 2 until 21 July 2007.