JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE BOX at Dundee Rep, for The Scotsman, 2.11.15
2 stars **
THE STORY told by Edinburgh-based theatre-maker Alice Mary Cooper in her brief new solo touring show The Box is such a powerful one that everyone who cares about the story of working-class people during the First World War should hear it. Over 55 minutes, on a stage simply furnished with a small screen and several white storage boxes, she tells the tale of a memorial box created and sealed by Dundee postal workers in 1921, to record their experience of the First World War, and their memories of fellow workers who died; a letter fixed to the box asked that it be opened on 4 August 2014, exactly 100 years after the declaration of war.
Cooper’s problem, though, is that she has fallen victim to the contemporary performance convention – sometimes useful, more often not – that suggests the best way to tell a story is for the storyteller to focus on their own experience of putting the story together; so in what is already a brief show, we simply hear far too much about Cooper’s research experience, and far too little – despite a moving finale – about the ordinary heroes who gave up so much of their time to organise and fund-raise to help colleagues in the armed forces during the war.
In that sense, Cooper’s show is more like a swift introduction to all the rich possible themes within this story, than a show in itself; and I was left with the feeling that this subject needs a theatrical treatment far more energised and ambitious than this, and far more clearly focussed on the story itself.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, 6 November.