The Music Box

ALICE BOUGHTON finds hidden treasure deep in the black box of Corpus Playroom.

Corpus Playroom Dance Emma Stirling immy gardam james evans laura batey sophie seita the music box Theatre will chappell

Corpus Playroom, 13th-17th March, 9.30pm, £5-6

Directed by Emma Stirling and Sophie Seita

[rating: 4/5]

Beginning with its ending, before starting in the middle, The Music Box’s kaleidoscope of tensions are caught in the pivotal moment between childhood and growing up, all entirely contained in a single room. Not the easiest performance to get your head around, but worth the effort.

One of the most impressive and challenging dimensions of this performance was the mesh of a variety of artistic forms. The Music Box is not being sold as a ‘play’, and that it for a reason – there is no real story or narrative to be found.

Photo courtesy of the production

The audience has an active role in the experience, constantly seeking out a comprehensive experience. Anna Moser’s artwork deserves a mention, used as a visual representation of a child’s imagination, and to create a link between the dream-like and reality which bridged the gap between the childish world and that of the adults.

This elusiveness is further intensified by the silence of three of the characters. In particular, the story of the Mother and Doctor is conveyed only through dance, putting pressure on physical expression which Jacob Shephard and Immy Gardam pull off brilliantly. Less clear is the muteness of Blake (Will Chappell), whose silence is initially comic, but becomes increasingly frustrated and vulnerable.

His express himself through speech himself underpins the difficulty stressed by Laura, for people to ‘just say what they mean’, as well as demonstrating the childish helplessness of the three siblings. The initially silent, threatening figure of Oliver (James Evans), omnipresent in his sketched form, becomes a imposing force; an intruder into the contained room, in sinister juxtaposition with the infantile set.

Laura Batey is excellent as the simultaneously controlling and vulnerable Laura, providing a powerful performance of a girl on the cusp between child- and adulthood. She is set against Emma Stirling – the writer herself – as Tess, who is pitched with an innocence and fragility that sets off the pathos of the performance. Fittingly, The Music Box contains a deceptively small cast in one small room, yet the variety of performances truly bring it to life, each character bringing something to the uneasy but enticing atmosphere.

Don’t expect an easy ride if you go to see The Music Box; no one tells you what’s going on, or how to fit the pieces together. But if you’re prepared to engage with the various elements, they come together to provide a rich, diverse performance which is well worth the work.