Boys at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

As You Like It, with Jessica Hayles centre. Picture by Keith Pattison

How do you like it? Gender and politics in Shakespeare at the New Theatre Royal

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The Nuffield continues its enterprising partnership with Headlong in Ella Hickson’s new play.

A hot summer in Edinburgh and four young men are set to party into the night, each celebrating some kind of coming of age but haunted by the suspicion that being young might have been the best there is.

Outside the flat, the city is heavy with social unrest, while inside, recent events have raised doubts about the place of raw talent, energy and passion in an adult world that seems to care little for them.

The performances of the four flatmates and the two girls who join them are all strong; often funny, always dynamic. Danny Kirrane is powerful in the central role of Benny as he tries to confront the descent into chaos.

The script’s rapid changes of tempo and mood are subtly played, with Robert Icke’s direction carefully blending the naturalism and the theatricality of the play.

Boys taps directly into many of the younger generation’s current fears about their future security and well-being but it is by no means universally bleak.

The strongest moments are always tinged with the possibility, against all the odds, of what might just be achievable.

Until 26 May.

DAVID PENROSE