The performance begins with a strange rendition of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown. The Motown drums have been replaced with an electro-pop beat and the vocal as are performed by a tormenting and mischievous clown (Avi Simmons). The clown is holding an arrow and pointing it in the direction of Marnie (played by writer and performer Monsay Whitney). The clown chases Marnie around the stage and makes full use of the fact that Box Clever is taking place in the Roundabout at the rear courtyard in Summerhall. The show is presented by the Nabakov Theatre Company and it tackles the issues of child abuse and the flaws in the support system. The perspective is clearly atypical for several reasons – the introduction of the clown for starters.
The story follows Marnie and begins with a potted history of her boyfriends. Marnie is a young working class girl from London and she gave birth to a child at a young age. Marnie relies on the benefits system and never loses sight of her duties as a mother. During the final third of Box Clever, a bombshell is dropped directly into the story and we see how Marnie attempts to find justice within this benefits system, but is only met with ignorance and further torment.
Box Clever has a fantastic script that is expertly delivered by the two performers. Avi Simmons embodies several characters throughout the show and manages to present them all as genuine and authentic, despite being dressed up like a clown. Her clowning skills and musicianship gives a expressive and surreal edge to Box Clever and this makes the show feel unique and exciting. With the clown on the stage there is a feeling that anything can happen and this results in the audience paying close attention to Marnie and her struggles. The ending is ambiguous and allows the audience to draw their own conclusions on Marnie’s future, where the plight of the protagonist will no doubt be on the minds of the audience well into the future.