Monday, 9 November 2015

The Box

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
Three stars

Two nights before Remembrance Sunday, and a woman is onstage surrounded by a hotch-potch of cardboard boxes, each one containing a totem of a remarkable story. She pulls a pair of tacketty boots from one, an ornate ladies hat from another. From one a seemingly endless reel of ticker tape unfurls its hidden messages. These messages and more are relayed in Alice Mary Cooper's evocation of a time capsule from The Great War packed by Dundee postal workers in 1921 and only rediscovered in 2013, a year before the centenary of the war's start.

This timing is handy, because, while the actual box, crammed full with letters, photographs and documents, now sits in the McManus Gallery in Dundee, its accompanying instructions that it wasn't to be opened until the centenary allows Cooper's hour-long show and tell to put flesh on the bones of a piece of hidden history that goes beyond mere war stories.

Commissioned by Harlow Playhouse, Essex and toured by Faultline Productions, Cooper's own story of how she came to make the show is intertwined with portrayals of key players from the past. As their lives overlap, a portrait emerges of a bustling Dundee society long before it became a beacon of cultural renewal and its current state of a citt centre building site.

In today's digitalised society where entire archives are just a click away, there's something refreshing seeing all this brought to life in Peter Collins' production. Accompanied by Daniel Padden's equally low-key score, Cooper's understated manner transforms a moment of civic pride into a living monument which can be witnessed once more when the box is opened in Paisley tomorrow night.

The Herald, November 9th 2015.

ends

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