BOX

Mon 20th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Rachel Cunliffe

at 19:53 on 22nd Aug 2012

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‘BOX’ bills itself as a play that ‘addresses freedom and dependence’. This sounded promising. The poster also implies some sort of exposition into feminism, with two women dressed in 1950s style housedresses and pearls, perhaps something along the lines of a Margaret Atwood novel. It would have been nice if just one of these aspects had been explored in this fifty-minute semi-improvised piece about… I’m honestly not sure what.

Elle (Margaret Kerr) and Bea (Adriana Colón) carry out an awkward, seemingly pointless conversation as the audience enters, which I assumed was some kind of preset state. This doesn’t change, however, after the lights go down, and continues for the entire show. They talk about manners and etiquette. They eat noodles. Occasionally, the phone rings, and they engage in Beckett-like conversations that fail to lead anywhere. Sometimes the lights come up, and the fourth wall is broken as these women inflict their aggressively pleasant small talk upon the audience. Then they eat more noodles.

If I sound as though I am being harsh, it is because, having spent several hours considering it, I still have no idea what this piece was meant to be. Vague existentialist themes are toyed with, as is the idea of imprisonment and repetition, but without any kind of structure or endpoint. If there is a message there, it is one that I completely failed to fathom.

Of course, this is a semi-improvised piece. Kerr and Colón are clearly talented, and the fact that they can maintain endless conversations about nothing at all (noodle packaging, for example, and why the floor is sticky) is impressive. This does not, however, stop these conversations from being painfully dull. There are a few amusing moments, such as when they produce multiple kettles, or the first discovery of the red box, which is the closest thing this play has to a theme. But although these may create brief moments of humour, they do not provide ‘BOX’ with a much-needed concept.

Tomorrow’s performance may be different (I have no idea how similar the improvisation is each day), but I doubt that much can be done to fix the major flaws with this play. Maybe I just didn’t get it, and that’s a reflection on my intelligence as a viewer than the show itself. Somehow, I doubt it.

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Charlie Brookhouse

at 00:46 on 23rd Aug 2012

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What’s the real gift in a game of pass the parcel? The present itself or sharing an experience of excited expectation followed by ritual disappointment? The bright red alien box to which Bea and Elle repeatedly return is only ever revealed to contain more boxes and it too can be taken as a symbol for the taunting frustration of their own lives.

Adriana Colón and Margaret Kerr play the sole two roles in this existential piece about wilful confinement and curiosity. The clinical domesticity of Bea and Elle’s shared apartment is highlighted by the arbitrary routines that structure their lives. At timed intervals they prepare two bricks of ramen for moderated consumption. In the interim, their conversation is characterised by a curiosity about the distant world that has given rise to the materiality of their immediate surroundings. For example, they think hard about the sourcing of their chopsticks and mimic the cartoon caricatures on the packets of flavouring powder. At such points, disagreements are always turned into friendly misunderstandings to preserve the relationship between the two and to obscure the faint unreality of their existence. But each subsequent iteration of the play - the preparation of more noodles, the reopening of the red box - risks turning the performance into a waiting game that has got little on Beckett’s Godot.

Towards the middle of this part-improvised performance, Colón and Kerr took the play in a more philosophical direction. All of a sudden, Bea and Elle acquired an awareness of the audience sitting and staring at them as though spectators at a zoo. Their escape from the stage and into the auditorium had the unfortunate consequence of undermining the very theatrical conventions that undergird any piece of theatre. Though the two girls’ furrowed brows were supposed to encourage the audience to respond to this move with curiosity as opposed to scepticism, there is only so much repetition and meta-theatricality that an audience can take.

That 'BOX' is a thoughtful and conscientious production is clear from the work that has gone into costume and set. A play of strong lines through bold shades of red, white, and blue, forms a minimalist aesthetic that provides essential context for the performance. It seems a philosophical point is being mined by this play, but I must admit, I felt I left 'BOX' empty-handed.

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