Walking into the studio at the Little Angel Theatre, the set and audience space of Boxville involves lots of cardboard. The title is displayed in big red lettering across a flat brown backdrop, with what looks like piles of recycling on the floor. There are also boxes of pens, scissors, and crafting supplies to be found. As the audience filters in, the excitement from younger audience members at the opportunity to get crafting is palpable.
The show opens with three Boxville engineers, decked out in layers of cardboard brown. In this production, all three of the engineers were played by female actors; it is great to see that Boxville society promotes women in STEM. With high-energy delivery from the get-go, the audience are transported through time and space, using brilliant physical theatre to create a sense of transformation using cardboard boxes as props.
The more intricate props in this production are true works of art. Having been transported back in time, the first dilemma Boxville goers are faced with is a scary dragon. This dragon is operated by two performers and crafted out of numerous cardboard pieces, including a blinking eye. This production also involves adult-sizes crab outfits, musical instruments, and robots beautifully designed from such a simple material, and credit is due for the very ability to keep these intact between performances! The overall aesthetic of this production is charming in that it is both simplistic and finessed. The story is engaging with humour both in its wit and use of outlandish situations, such as cheering up crabby crustaceans by performing with cardboard instruments and escaping a sentient futuristic Alexa on planet Amazon Prime. Those boxes had to be coming from somewhere!
Faced with a fearsome dragon, audience members are invited to design a protective shield out of cardboard pieces to keep themselves safe and continue on the show’s journey. There are two further creative opportunities: to design a musical instrument, and a robot disguise. With the help of the cast and relevant grown-ups where needed, what was initially a pile of cardboard on the floor becomes props in this theatrical adventure. Following each quest, audience members were able to collect a shape as a prize, combining these at the end of the show to form an ‘Imagi-Badge’ as a token of their achievement.
Boxville is a simple yet effective concept, combining an imaginative performance with a high level of audience involvement. The production creates a space of possibility in which children are empowered; it is children’s creativity that progresses the show forward, and there is a sense that the performance team are themselves tickled by the artistic choices coming from the audience. This show is a brilliant day out for creative young minds and offers a model for an expanded concept of interactive theatre.
Designed by: Sam Wilde
Directed by: Sam Wilde and Ian Nicholson
Produced by: Sarah Shephard for Cardboard Adventures Production
Boxville has completed its current run at Little Angel Theatre