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Fringe Online 2020

Inside This Box

Arcola Theatre and Clean Break Theatre and Co-Op Foundation funded Youth Loneliness Project

Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Feminist Theatre, Mainstream Theatre, New Writing, Online Theatre, Short Plays, Theatre, Youth Theatre

Venue: Arcola Theatre, Studio 2, 24 Ashwin Street

Festival: ,

Low Down

Written by Yasmin Joseph and directed by Stef O’Driscoll for Clean Break, the Designer’s Khadija Raza, Lit by Sherry Coenen, with Sound by Munotida Chinyanga, and Movement by Hayley Chilvers, Stage Manager Lavinia Serban, Dramaturg Gillian Greer, Production Volunteers Chloe Yates and Sophia Compton, Project Manager Lorraine Maher, Producer Nadezhda Zhelyazkov, Assistant Producer Maya Ellis.

Camera Operators Clara Helbig, Aatiqa Rehman, Olamatu Jabbie, Sade Briggs (also Editor), Eitign Mentor Onyeka Igwe, Filming mentor Libby Knowles, Producer Nandita Lovage, Assistant Producer Maisie Post. July 2-9th. And to return with a Clean Break subscription.


A group of young women actors pass the parcel. Not just any kind. It glows. They run or rather circle with the story. In the Arcola’s Studio 2 lit in spectral violet that bounces off the bricks, there a few upended boxes, and the one that glows. In purely naturalistic dialogue the tensions lock, the monologues give on to gulphs of separation.

Inside this Box is written by Yasmin Joseph and directed by Stef O’Driscoll for Clean Break. It’s a brave welcome reminder of things we’ve fleetingly missed – it was on for just two days at the Arcola in February, as it toured. And there’s what we’ve gained by this sensitive piece of filming by a young crew with supervision. You’d not believe everyone was being mentored.

Clean Break is a visionary theatre founded in 1979 by women who’ve been in or near prison and remand, and for those suffering the same plight with a monstrously disproportionate treatment by society. It’s stories but it’s about being in your story, and not hijacked by someone else’s. Think outside that box your carrying, then think inside, to think out.

A young woman – each in turn – has been tasked with conveying a parcel to a destination with no knowledge of what it contains. Muling perhaps. Whatever, it provokes suspicion or at one point sympathy from a fellow-passenger whose solicitations can’t disguise the danger from someone guessing the shrouded business you’re to disclose to no-one. And getting a glass of water at a station Upper crust involves staff abuse when the young customer looks vulnerable. And your phone battery’s down to 38%. Maybe there’s a Gordian knot to untie here. As each becomes a pilgrim from early morning train to end, the other five become chorus, cajoling, cross-referencing advice, digging at a lack of decision.

The designer’s Khadija Raza, and the production’s Lit with an enchanting irony in violet and purples along bricks by Sherry Coenen, with Sound by Munotida Chinyanga, and Movement by Hayley Chilvers,

Athena Maria, Chloe Florence, Lisa-Marie Ashworth, Lu, Phoebe Douglass, Tia Thompson, all perform with energy and aplomb, full of verve and accomplishment. It’s invidious to pick out any performances though Thompson’s already a lively actor with a swift naturalness, Maria makes a fine concerned passenger with a physical readiness to show it, making herself small and unthreatening; Florence shines as the rather threatening Upper Crust worker, and Lu cuts to the chase physically and vocally. The last two with the box, Douglass and Ashworth, are by turns defiant, appalled, affecting.

If there’s occasional vocal unevenness in terms of shouty moments it’s to be expected in a small day-old space, and the Arcola 2’s bricks make it reverberant. This like all Clean Break productions is vital, heart-rending and alive. It showcases future names and above all is defiant with hope and agency.

Only 25 minutes but an absorbing fable. Most, it suggests what we’re up against in a system that demonizes, and exploiters who use others to swerve that system. We need this dedication back. We need Clean Break back