A storyteller and several listeners come together in an intimate place to share and listen to a story. This connection is the essence of Boxman at the Blue Elephant Theatre and works to open our eyes and ears to stories invisible in our daily lives.
We are listening to Ringo (Reice Weathers), to his stories about home, belonging, loss and loneliness. We hear several fragments of his multiple selves, which construct an image of the man we see in front of us. Ringo is a refugee from Sierra Leone and lives in this self-build home in a park, which could be any park we pass throughout our daily routine. Today we take the time to listen to him and to go with him on a journey through unimaginable pain, surprising sarcasm, self-irony, and heart-warming moments of melancholy and playfulness. This man is charming, optimistic and open. Nevertheless, we perceive his inner fights cracking through his mask of being a welcoming host to us. Ringo is lost, haunted by the shadows of his past, seeking to belong somewhere where he can feel safe and grounded.
Boxman is written by Australian playwright Daniel Keene to raise awareness for refugees and draws essential connections to Europe’s refugee crisis and the situation in the UK today. Director Edwina Strobl and Performer Weathers adapt Keene’s play for its UK premiere. They combine family histories filled with immigration and stories of refugees, like the one of Issa Thullah from Sierra Leone, to make these stories visible and to give them a voice. The result is a portrayal of a man who suffers, enjoys and lives. Between philosophical reasoning, Ringo emerges from the shadows and materialises on stage.
Weathers is brave enough to be a projection screen for people who lost everything, who had to flee their home, and who were forced to start anew with nothing as their own story. His embodiment of Ringo moves between disarming charm and painful, yet philosophical, reflection of a man who suffers unimaginably. His portrayed optimism and resilience is genuine and cuts through the memories of a different life. Nevertheless, the recurring laughter not only passes a sweet scent of life, but also shares a bitter aftertaste with the audience. The source text, which Weathers revives on stage, touches upon the essence of life and belonging uttered through reflections, experiences and attitudes of a contemporary philosopher. Even though the content and presentation of Ringo’s story is strong, genuinely touching and convincing, the contact to the audience gets lost sometimes. An investigation into the delivery of the story can be reinforced through a clear image of the addressee. Weathers’ gaze into the front corner of the stage does not always reach the desired effect to speak to his shadow self of the past, but rather cuts the connection to the people who are gathered in front of him to listen.
Flugelman Productions has partnered with organisations such as The Refugee Council, Refugee Action and Young Roots who support refugees in the UK. Their work and the production of Boxman aims to raise awareness for the refugee and immigration situation in the UK and wishes to motivate people to donate, volunteer or simply to listen to the various stories that are invisible and forgotten within our daily lives. However, they are present for everyone who was ever forced to leave their homes and loved ones behind. They became part of our shared story of cultural, political and national heritage and future.
We share a responsibility to be aware and listen to stories which take part aside of our own. Their presence is not a burden, but a way to transform invisibility. For everyone who is ready to listen, please do come and accompany Ringo’s stories of being Boxman.
Boxman played at the Blue Elephant Theatre until 6 July
Photo: Flugelman Productions