Portmanteau introduces its new play Boxed In at the the Pleasance Theatre ahead of their month-long run in Edinburgh this summer. Boxed In was conceptualised through a series of questions and interviews with both men and women between the ages of five and 70. Playwright Eva Hibbs and Portmanteau have created a play using movement, storytelling and verbatim to answer what defines our gender and from what age are we ‘boxed in’ to these categories.
Brother and sister, Jamie (Rose Wardle) and Jess (Lily Beck) come home to go through their belongings after their parents have decided to sell their family home. The siblings spend a nostalgic hour going through their boxes only to realise how much their lives have been defined by the memories stored within.
The story is inspired by #LikeAGirl and HeforShe among many other gender equality campaigns. Audiences are encouraged to think about what shaped their gender before they see the show.
Although normally we would no longer bat an eyelid at women playing men and vice versa, it does seem a bit odd that in a show that really strives to get to the core of gender identity, Jamie is played by a woman. That is not to say that she was bad in her role – in fact quite the opposite – it just didn’t particularly fit the message of the show.
The pair really show how much we take for granted growing up. Jess pulls out her Barbie and James digs up his Action Man. Jess presents ‘Mummy’s Cooking Show’ and James uses his tool kit in a guide to ‘fix things like daddy’. Both stand in front of their mirrors showing how much body image affects both men and women – at different ages – in different ways.
There is a really strong message here for all spectators and both script and actors relay the powerful lesson fantastically. It’s really interesting to realise that gender roles have been assigned from the moment we enter the world and follow us through life, even into the workplace.
By the end of the show, the pair come to realise that each gender comes with its own struggles. The show leaves one question unanswered: now that Jamie and Jess understand each other better, will they be able to break their gender norms or will they revert back into them?
This show should definitely be on the ‘to see list’ for Edinburgh this summer. It’s brilliantly written, excellently performed, intriguing and witty.
Boxed In played at the Pleasance Theatre and will be at the Edinburgh Festival 5-31 August. For tickets and more information, see the Pleasance Theatre website.