White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 3rd October 2017
“some moments are delicate, others are clunky and too heavily reliant on exposition.”
The details of a toxic relationship, before and after, are explored in The Box, the debut play from writer Chris Szuca. Playing between now and the 7th at the White Bear Theatre, this is an attempt to deconstruct a relationship with the benefit of hindsight.
This a play with potential. Unfortunately this production fails to capitalise on its key strengths, leaving its many weaknesses exposed. While the script is detailed, it lacks subtlety and nuance. While some moments are delicate, such as Young Robyn’s speech to her baby daughter, others are clunky and too heavily reliant on exposition. There is a lack of depth to the dialogue, reducing what could be gritty realism into a superficial melodrama with a climax which feels forced and lacks impact.
Performance wise, there is a lack of intimacy on the stage between both couples which robs all the relationships of any true emotional connection. The direction does not help them – the positioning seems mechanical and unfocused, and there is far too much pointless faffing with props and costumes which pulls focus. Of the cast, the younger couple fare better. Emma Stirling manages to find strokes of determination and fragility in the awkwardness of the spacing, making her Robyn sympathetic. Dan Burman does his best to make the younger Andrew multi-faceted, playing vulnerability over threat, but is hindered by some clumsy dialogue. As the older couple, Pat Garrett and Will Anderson struggle to work off each other. Garrett delivers her lines clearly and earnestly, but with little variety and she is left to wander aimlessly too often. Anderson in turn, plumbs the depths of Andrew’s despair but feels sidelined. The power of their confrontation is lost in the polite distance and introspection that each seems stuck in.
Overall this feels like a premature staging. Both script and performance still need polish. However, there is potential here. It’s a brave endeavour to produce a debut play and you hope that this is just a stepping stone performance, that both cast and crew can build on.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
is at The White Bear Theatre until 7th October