Theatre review: The Box, Dundee Rep

Alice May Coopers show ticks some important boxesAlice May Coopers show ticks some important boxes
Alice May Coopers show ticks some important boxes
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.

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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 of all the rich possible themes within this story, from 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