Boxed In

★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 07 Aug 2015

From the toys we played with to the advice Granny gave, society has boxed us into thinking that there are only two types of people: football-loving lads and child-breeding women. Or so claim Portmanteau Theatre in their shallow two-hander.

Twins Jessie and James, both played by women, are sorting through boxes of childhood toys. For Jessie it's Barbies and plastic cookery equipment, while James plucks out a papier mache volcano and an Action Man. Hit by nostalgia, re-enacting dance routines and role plays from their past (including a vigorous rendition of Will Young's 'Evergreen'), they reflect on how society's expectations of boys and girls have shaped who they've become.

Boxed In stomps through the broadest of gender stereotypes. It's never quite clear whether it's opposing or entrenching them. Rose Wardle gets into character as James by sitting with his legs apart, as if that's the extent of masculinity. There are glimmers of complexity in these two characters, but loose strands hang all over the place – James in particular is never quite penetrated. Instead, the narrative is just a vehicle for endless and increasingly uninteresting variations on the same theme.

Towards the end, there's almost a suggestion that we can break out of those norms. Maybe pink and blue plastic doesn't actually determine who we are. But that route is abandoned in favour of a trite conciliatory climax: "Have you ever thought that maybe men get just as much stick as women?" There's nothing new here. Boxed In needs much more unpacking.