As human beings, we get very attached to stuff. Matching sets of tableware, coordinated Christmas jumpers, trinkets, knick-nacks, snack sets. Somehow, all these snack sets form part of our personality. At what point does it become impossible to separate us from our stuff?
Box explores the love-hate relationship we have with the things we accumulate through our lives. Dennis Elkins is packing up the things in his parents’ house after his mother has died and his father has decided to move in with the super-saccharine Millie. He and his sisters sort through 40 years of accumulated possessions and try to figure out what to keep and what to shed. The chosen belongings follow him, from one storage container to another, as he sorts through the rest of his possessions, trying to figure out who he really is.
This is a gentle script by Elkins that makes some lovely observations about the absurdity of the decisions we make. Sorting photos in the family house, his father packs up the assorted portraits of his ancestors, leaving his mother’s ancestors still strung from the wall. Who, then, should take charge of them? There are lots of funny lines – the 29 martini glasses are a highlight. Elkins has a single prop for his monologue – the titular box. But it becomes a car, body armour, body adornment, a burden and a beloved possession as the story twists and turns.
Delivered with admirable vocal range and great energy by Elkins, this is an engaging show. He’s lived through some tough times, made some hard decisions, and doesn’t shy away from any of it in his story. It’s surely a deliberate choice to skip over these momentous moments in favour of lengthy discourse about fitting belongings into trucks – some sort of metaphor for the fact that life doesn’t come in bite-sized chunks maybe. But it might add more emotional weight to the piece if we heard more of his heartache and less of his logistical challenges. The contents of our boxes usually matter less than their meaning, after all.
Box runs on alternate days until 23 August.