Here at the Half Moon Theatre the stage for Boxed In is split in two by an enormous pile of cardboard boxes. It’s huge! And it effectively forms a barrier between the sides of the space, ready for some comparisons – and also some conflicting ideas. This is a wonderfully playful and engaging production that invites a young audience to think about how unspoken rules exist in society, and how behaviours can be different for different people.
It’s lunch break for Derek (Daryl Beeton) and Joe (Jonathan Van Beek) on either side of the boxes. We watch as they go about putting their jackets away, eating their snacks – doing their own things. But those things are handled quite differently, and when the pair cross sides things start to get very complicated and very funny.
There’s an immediate visible difference between Derek and Joe, not only because Beeton performs from a wheelchair, but also because the two characters are very different in how they do things. Derek is messy and happy with a bit of disorder around him. Joe is very particular: he likes a place for everything and everything in its place. Sharing the same space requires negotiation, learning and understanding.
The show is largely non-verbal, with just a few uncomplicated key words such as ‘stop’ and ‘go’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, to give instructions. Rosie Ridgway & Dean Rodney Jr’s upbeat soundtrack and fun sound effects underscore the story and create extra layers within the comedy. Van Beek’s design work uses familiar, everyday objects to create Derek and Joe’s shared world, but it is also helpful in providing clear visual messaging and metaphors to expand understanding of what’s going on, and how the characters feel.
The two actors make a great team, and their physical performances are impressively choreographed and amusing, particularly when they clown around turning a jacket inside out and wrapping each other up into it, or battle with a roll of bubble wrap. Beeton is bubbly and charismatic, interacting cheekily with the audience as he naughtily tests the boundaries of what’s acceptable. Throughout, the young spectators are delightfully engaged in the action, eagerly throwing out suggestions and solutions on how to solve Derek’s dilemmas. At times events even get a bit absurd, but this means that suddenly a magic moment is created where things might not have to be as they seem: we encounter a space where our world could be different.
There are also some quite poignant instances in the show when Derek gets distressed by his inability to get things right and literally gets boxed in – a feeling surely familiar to even the smallest audience member. But he sets a really positive example, relentlessly trying to work out a solution, and even turning upside down to get a different perspective on things.
Daryl & Co and Half Moon’s co-production of Boxed In is a cleverly considered piece of work that is full of laughter but also full of interesting questions about the rules of what’s right and what’s wrong. It offers a playfully positive way to imagine a world where we’re all included and, with a little effort, everyone’s way of being can be accommodated.
Devised by: Daryl Beeton and Jonathan Van Beek
Directed by: Daryl Beeton
Design by: Jonathan Van Beek
Composed by: Rosie Ridgway & Dean Rodney Jr
Lighting Design and Production Management by: Emily Walls
Produced by: Chris Elwell for Daryl & Co. and Half Moon
Boxed In is aimed at ages 3-6 years and plays at the Half Moon theatre until Tuesday 6 February. Further information can be found here.