Box Clever by Monsay Whitney – Summerhall, Edinburgh
Performed in the round, portable Paines Plough auditorium, Box Clever lays open the frustrations of a woman caught in the system. Writer Monsay Whitney tells the story of disastrous relationships, drug problems and the beleaguered life of a single mother escaping domestic violence, in dry South East London tones. All the other characters in her story are played by Avi Simmons, dressed as a clown, with guitar and prop trolley. Assailed on all sides – by her devious mother, patronising care worker, and unpredictable, fire setting residents of a women’s refuge – her situation is disastrous and bleakly funny.
It turns out to be a play of two halves. The story segues into a involved very specific sequence of social worker appointments and hearings, in which it becomes convenient that Whitney should take the blame for others actions. Pretty much everyone else in the play is painted as shameless and self-serving, not only abusive boyfriends but everyone in authority. Social workers and police are all not only arrogant but utterly uninterested in the people they care for. This makes us question the objectivity of Whitney’s perspective and, while Box Clever tells a dark and heart-breaking story with humour, it lacks the wider political resonances that would give it real power.