Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Happy Anniversary Box Clever Theatre!

Since I've made it my goal to raise funds for Box Clever Theatre Company in 2016, I figured I should take the opportunity to find out what this company actually does!

Sunday 6th March 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the company, and as a Very Clever Friend (oh how I like being called that!) I was invited to share in their celebrations! 

The afternoon commenced with a modern interpretation of the classic Romeo and Juliet. It was performed in the round, and the set was simply what looked like an oversized park bench! (Two "seats" at one level, with a higher third tier in the middle.) There were only three actors involved, Corey Stuckey as Romeo, Evie Taylor as Juliet and Maria Simmonds as the narrator. It was an inspired performance interlocking modern speech with inserts of the Bards words, but this mash up of modern and Shakespearean language was seamless, it didn't feel forced or contrived.

fast paced, edge of the seat viewing


I have watched Romeo and Juliet countless times over the years, but it was this performance which suddenly reminded me how ludicrous the story actually was. I had completely forgotten that Romeo and Juliet fell in love, got married and died in the matter of a week. In this version, Romeo and Juliet have met at a club, the music is blaring, they kiss and love blossoms. The narrator moves in to question them as to how they could fall in love so quickly, the narrator is sceptical of this passion that flows through the couple. What I loved is that the narrator does not just fill in the story between Romeo and Juliet's scenes, but she is the face in the crowd, the outsider looking in and passing judgement on the couple. She says what she sees, she thinks it's ridiculous that people can meet at a party and be planning marriage a day or so later! As the tension mounts throughout the play and we head towards the conclusion, the narrator then points out that with all the facts on the table now, she is beginning to question whether or not she was wrong, that perhaps the two lovers really did have a deep set bond.


The production is fast paced, and the actors engage with their audience throughout, which makes it great interactive viewing (you don't know if they will ask you a question or want to shake your hand!) and I can see how engaging these touring productions will be when they visit schools throughout the country. I thought I knew the story well, but in the past I had been so immersed in the language or the sets, I'd forgotten to listen to what the key themes of the tale were. I was impressed how quickly I was drawn into the events surrounding Romeo and Juliet's tale of woe and how I became so emotionally attached to the performance. The sixty minutes flew by and I heartily wished that this sort of theatre had been available to me when I was at school.

Not So Unlucky Thirteen!!

It was time for a break, for people to grab a cuppa and some food before the second performance of the day commenced. The actor, Joseph Mawle, and a patron of Box Clever, started proceedings by saying a few words about how inspiring he had found the company, and a little bit about the work that Box Clever had undertaken over the years. Joseph has starred in Game of Thrones, Birdsong and Ripper Street, plus many other well known productions, so it spoke volumes about how much he believes in the company for him to take the time to come and watch the play. 

Thirteen extracts from plays that Box Clever has performed over the years were then presented. The standard of writing and acting was phenomenal and the messages that the plays were trying to deliver really hit home. The topics were diverse, but ones that their intended audience would really associate with. Box Clever tours schools with these plays, and carries out workshops with the children after the performances. 

In Urban Mischief David Ajao (RSC) lives in a tower block and is rather isolated. His lives his life vicariously through films, as fantasy is easier to deal with than reality. He meets Mia, (Charlyne Francis) someone he has watched from afar. Whilst they try to get to know one another, it shows how difficult it is for Mia to communicate with someone who can not deal with the real world. The extracts are performed with humour, but the underlying message is heartfelt and sincere about how difficult young people find it to mark out a place for themselves in the real world.

Something Beautiful told the story of a difficult relationship between a father and son after a divorce. The day, played by Clive Hayward (EastEnders, Prime Suspect) is not handling bringing up his teenage son very well. Whatever he does seems to push them further apart. The son (Cory Stuckey) is packing his bag to leave and go to his mum, and the play deals with many issues surrounding both the relationship between people, and also the dangers of hitch hiking to get you from a to b!

All thirteen extracts were told and performed with such passion and emotion. The standard that was produced was amazing. I was certainly enlightened after the event just how much Box Clever can bring to a student's learning journey. I took away so much from those performances, and I really look forward to being invited to see some more performances as the year continues.

*All photo's courtesy of Box Clever Theatre @clevertheatre (Twitter)

How can I find out and do more?

If you want any further information about Box Clever, visit their website at http://www.boxclevertheatre.co.uk

If you want to help me raise funds for Box Clever Theatre Company, please support me by clicking here https://www.justgiving.com/Susan-rogers3

If you have children at school, I would advise you to speak to the headmaster about the possibility of inviting Box Clever Theatre Company to work with your school. "If you are interested in booking any of the performances, would like more information or would like to come and see the show at one of our schools, please contact tourbooker@boxclevertheatre.com or 0207 793 0040."

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