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The Laughing Boy | Jermyn Street Theatre

Connor died. He should be alive. Connor Sparrowhawk died a preventable death. This is the

story of his family’s unimaginable grief.

Connor was born with autism in 1994, at a time when not much was in place to help a kid like him navigate through the challenges of life. Later, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Despite this, Connor had a happy childhood filled with laughter, joy, and love, which he procured abundantly to his loved ones. Around his 18th birthday, life became more difficult for both Connor and his family, so they decided, for his safety, to send him to an Assessment and Treatment facility. As a result of the cruel negligence of the staff, Connor Sparrowhawk died in that facility. Demanding to know the truth, Connor’s mother Sara Ryan (Janie Dee), unknowingly uncovers a scandal of neglect and indifference that extends beyond Connor’s death to thousands of others. This is their fight for justice. Justice for Laughing Boy. It is a harsh, heartbreaking, yet at times funny story about a family fighting for their son.

Dee gives a wildly nuanced performance as Sara, a loving mother with the ambition to never give up until the truth about her son’s death is known and those responsible are brought to justice. Although the play is about Connor’s life, it is Sara who tells it. She guides us through several stages of Connor’s life and death, from his diagnosis in early childhood to the end of the trial. It is an incredibly beautiful (and true) story, and Dee brought justice to the role as

she immersed and navigated us through the ups and downs of Connor and his family’s life.

Dee and Alfie Friedman (Connor) are joined by five other cast members, who portray the family, as well as many other smaller characters. Standout performances were delivered by Lee Braithwaite and Molly Osborne who both doubled as some of the most heartless characters, whilst also portraying some of the most heartwarming family members.

As noted in the script, the stage is a stage. Nothing more. It is as bare as it can be with a white background arching around the stage, and a couple of light-coloured wooden chairs. The only prop is a double decker London Bus as Connor loved London buses. The show also features projections, with footage of Connor as a young boy, amongst other things. All is set up to encapsulate the grief of the family, they are all trapped on the stage. However, the light colours in the staging inspire hope that justice will be brought to the Laughing Boy, and the thousands of others who were wronged by the system.

The Laughing Boy is truly a beautiful story that will have you reaching for tissues from start to finish. They all deserved better, and fought to make sure that it does not happen to any other family.

The Laughing Boy runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 31st May - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Alex Brenner


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