Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until Mon 31 Aug 2015 @ 14:15

Two 25-year-old twins return to the familial homestead to sort through their childhood belongings before their parents sell up. As they sift over the assorted memories, it becomes apparent how much these seemingly insignificant objects of infancy have influenced their personalities long into adulthood.

Portmanteau have created a smart, touching and witty examination of the myriad ways boys and girls are conditioned into the men and women they become. There are the obvious gender stereotypes (Barbie versus Action Man, football versus cooking) but it would be difficult to broach this topic without alluding to either.

However, Portmanteau dive deeper, considering how these influences are just part of the tornado of conformity and expectation that swirls about us all. They explore how prejudice is not just what influences you, but how you yourself are interpreted: women are bossy, men are assertive.

Flashback vignettes allow for demonstrations of gender bias but also give depth to the drama, preventing the bedroom scenario from becoming too stretched; a night-time story with torch-lit faces is something that will resonate with many.

But despite the varying stigmas and cultural stereotypes, there’s a strong sense of similarity, achieved from the staging (a simple taped line divides them, as if mirroring each other) and emphasised through having both brother and sister played by women.

What Boxed In demonstrates very well is while accepting that things are often easier for men, there are expectations on everyone to fit into our box, whether we like it or not.