A twelve-year-old girl writes a poem. With nobody to read it, and nobody to give it to, she stows it away in a hitherto unused blue box. Over the years, the box accumulates further texts and short stories about real people, which the girl, Emma Abdullah, has written. As world conditions develop, she is reminded of the box and its contents, and suddenly snapshots of raw, genuine life experiences gain significance which may perhaps shed light on harrowing truths all too often unreported.
The Blue Box will make it impossible to anymore ignore the stories of “the candles that have blown out too soon”.
Though originally rooted in particular zones of conflict, director and scriptwriter Alison Shan Price here uses the universality of theatre to broaden the message of Abdullah’s stories and to re-contextualise them as representative of all children forced to live in conditions outside of ‘normal’ expectations. Let’s be frank; this is theatre which desires, nay, demands, to be heard. It is not always fully polished in the sense of neatening movements or smoothing rough edges, but this is wholly fitting for its purpose of communicating clearly, and with urgency, the desperate conditions of children in war-torn lands.
Learning afterwards that all cast members have at one time been within several kilometres of terrorist bomb attacks, the piece is imbued with a further layer of authenticity rarely found on stage. Episodic in structure, though united by the central narrative thread of a community’s stories being taken from the “blue box”, we are taken on a whirlwind tour of snapshot insights into people’s lives.
Despite featuring a cast of performers from very different backgrounds and experiences, there is a profound sense of community and a tangible desire for telling the stories with integrity. Particularly affecting are the performances from the child actors, all of whom deal with the subject matter with maturity while still retaining a warming sense of innocence which effectively conveys the injustice of their inability to live, play, and learn in security and peace. It would be unnecessary to single any one performer out, as this truly is a production reliant on every person’s contribution.
From the teacher of an ever-diminishing class through to the multiple perspectives of fleeing one’s home and to the doctor faced with impossible decisions, this piece is unrelenting in its eye-opening depiction of individual lives who, somewhat uncomfortably, are often all too easy to ignore. Troubling and eye-opening in equal measure, though somehow filled with vitality, The Blue Box will make it impossible to anymore ignore the stories of “the candles that have blown out too soon”.