We see homeless people every day in Brighton, on the street and in our parks, trying to build a ‘home’ out of the small number of possessions with which they surround themselves. We might try to ignore them, we might even pity them, but how often do we consider who they really are, where they come from, and what their story is? Boxman is an utterly riveting monologue that asks precisely these questions of an African refugee, displaced from an unnamed war-torn African country, who now finds himself ‘here’. But ‘here’ is not a place, it is a situation. The local police call him Ringo, but that is not his name. Actually, we discover, he has forgotten his name, like so many things. And yet he remembers others, events he would prefer to forget. His memory is like a broken mirror, and he is haunted by his own shadow, his own child-self from 'another time, another place'.
This is my pick of the Fringe by a country mile. If I could give it six stars, I would.
This production, inspired by the real life story of Issa Thullah, began as a scratch event at the Stonecrabs Festival in 2017 and will surely gain admirers wherever it chooses to go from here. The script, written by multiple award-winning Australian playwright Daniel Keene, is muscular, poetic, touching and thought-provoking; and it frequently turns on a sixpence, evoking laughter one moment and tears the next. It offers a profound meditation on the meaning of home. 'Home doesn’t have a size,' Ringo tells us, 'home is an idea.' For Ringo, loss of this concept called home equates to loss of memory and identity. He worries that he might be crazy, because he needs to know where he is, and ‘here’ is actually nowhere.
Reice Weathers, as Ringo, gives us a flawless performance. His evocation of the naïve hope of a new life in a ‘safe’ country – a hope soon dashed – is pitch perfect, as is the veneer of jocularity he plasters over Ringo’s traumatic past, which always lurks just below the surface. Instantly likeable and mesmerising to watch, Weathers negotiates a complex script with (apparent) ease. Effective direction from Edwina Strobl keeps the production simple so that we are not distracted by theatrical effects. Mood is mirrored by good use of lighting, and subtended by an atmospheric soundtrack of ‘ambient’ sound – which at The Warren could have been dispensed with as the venue provides plenty of its own! This is my pick of the Fringe by a country mile. If I could give it six stars, I would.