Street theatre – the very phrase can strike terror into the heart. For every wonderful performance there is a plethora of dodgy mime artists, metallic spray clad statue artists and mishap jugglers.
Bootworks Theatre, however, have reinvented street theatre and with their latest creation Babyboxes have dragged theatre out of its traditional home and out onto the cobbles. This is no ordinary street theatre, though. Four red tricycles are parked in a row, on the back of each a bright box. Two chairs are placed in front of a window in each box and audiences spend five minutes at each box in turn.
Part of the joy is the element of surprise of what each box contains, so will I only say that four film noir characters discuss the murder of a philanderer from their own viewpoint. The boxes themselves evoke the feeling of the confessional and, as each character reveals themselves, audiences get the sense they are being party to deep, dark secrets.
The whole experience turns out to be both public and intimate. As an audience you are aware that you are also being viewed by passers by, with the backdrop of noise of the town centre making an unusual environment. Conversely the one performer to two audience members makes it incredibly intimate and personal. There’s no chance of avoiding eye contact here and, while no direct audience participation is involved, you can’t help feel connected to the performances.
The film noir atmosphere is heightened by monochromatic make up that evokes the seedy American underword.
Devised and performed by Lilly Beck, Laura Bern, Bathan Coundley, Ellis Seamons and John Woodburn, Babyboxes is one of those productions that seems so ingenious you wonder why nobody has thought of it before. The scripts for each box are strongly written, each individual character having a strong individual voice though adding new twists and layers with each new chapter. Performing at such close quarters and in such confined space requires total commitment but each performance is a delight, quirky characters but each performed with total believability.
As in any good murder story, the big question is whodunnit. Babyboxes never gives you the answer but part of the joy of such an individual experience is the opportunity to continue the discussion with fellow participants after the show.
The setting may seem unconventional but you’ll be hard pushed to find a more engaging show. If you see four red tricycles with mini stages on the back – take the plunge, take a seat and get ready for totally involving theatre.