Review: Boxes at Brighton Fringe
A blend of physical theatre, movement and storytelling, Boxes explores the intimacies and complexities of family life 📦
Once you take your seat in the audience for Boxes you are immediately confronted with boxes.
There are cardboard boxes, boxes emblazoned with the Union Jack as well as others decorated with the American stars and stripes; these boxes are surrounded by white boxes and black boxes, boxes which are juxtaposed against enigmatic, glass cubes, transparent boxes piled one on top of the other.
Boxes that are partially deconstructed, packaged flat, take center stage, ready to be erected into something useful, poised to become a vessel that can hold, hide or contain. Automatically you feel intrigued as to what is within these structures, stacked and strewn across the stage...
Opening night for #Boxes and #Vanessa tonight for @brightonfringe at the @PurplePlayhous1 in Hove.— Purple Theatre (@purpletheatre1) May 31, 2018
Queer, black led theatre at its finest...
Pls rtwt @TalawaTheatreCo @BlackTLive @eclipsetcl @ingoodcoEM #queer #BrightonFringe #qtipoc @Cairo_Leon @travisalabanza @ItsLucieBrowne pic.twitter.com/DdNvEkkF9O
Are they about to be opened? Or are they intended to conceal rather than reveal? Are they merely symbolic? Who’s life is stored in these boxes? And when we will we see them unpacked? With a blend of physical theatre, movement and storytelling, the play takes boxes as its theme and proceeds to explore the intimacies and complexities of family life.
Written and directed by Sam Beckett Jr. and Jim Kitson, the narrative centers around Toni (Cairo Nevitt) and TJ (Lucienne Brown). Toni and TJ are brother and sister. Their dad, was a man of colour - an American GI, who fought in the Vietnam war - their mother was a white British woman whose relationship with Toni and TJ’s dad didn’t end well.
Now their dad is dead, their mother’s memory is deteriorating and the siblings are left to sort through the boxes that contained their dad’s life, his secrets, and fragments of their family history.
We get the impression that these siblings don’t spend a lot of time together, they don’t understand each other or know what’s going on in the other’s life. Both repeatedly accuse the other of being racist and homophobic, forcing each other to interrogate what they mean by prejudice and discrimination.
Stuck in a room together, brother and sister are forced to speak and get to know each other all over again. Trapped in a conversation that highlights their very different perspectives, the play grapples with the intricacies of race, gender, family, trauma and violence.
Through the objects that emerge from the boxes, and the conversation that gradually unfolds between Toni and TJ, we learn that there were more sides to their dad than either of them first thought. The absent, disappointing father transforms into a person that liked to dress as a woman and also harboured a gun; who treasured their war medals but also acquired foundation and mascara.
Toni is incredulous that his Dad ever wore the red sequined dress the siblings find hidden in a locked wardrobe, but for TJ, a snapshot of her Dad in drag softens her bitter memories of him as an abusive parent. Packing and unpacking these boxes ultimately brings Toni and TJ closer together, forcing them to reconsider their past and inspiring them to spend more time together in the future.
Throughout the show, the boxes make their presence felt, physically they highlight the various ways in which society attempts to classify lives into rigid taxonomies - the tendency to tidy people away, neatly packaged into clearly labeled boxes. Boxes takes the impulse to categorise as its theme, exploring the way identities often traverse multiple categories, refusing to be pinned down as a single thing.
Human lives are too messy, entangled and sprawling to be contained by artificial boxes. The play conveys the feeling of not being able to fit into certain boxes, or perhaps the problems that accompany ticking too many...
The cast will be performing again as part of the Camden Fringe Festival at The Cock Pit Theatre, 16-19 August. If physical theatre, exploring race, gender and urban life if your thing - you know where to go.
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