Presented as part of MANIPULATE’s digital festival, Unboxed is a surreal, funny, and sometimes scary piece of physical theatre from Ariel Doron. Adapted from his celebrated live show, Boxed, this reimagining sees Doron embrace the online environment with open arms to create something at once familiar and totally different.

This time, the show is framed initially as an unboxing video – the sort that dominate certain areas of YouTube. Doron explains that he has ordered a ‘friend’ online, proceeds to open the box (promptly throwing the instructions away) before unboxing the item to reveal a hand. Doron then begins to explore what it is capable of: first to scratch an itch; adjust his glasses; and pick his nose. However, things take a slightly sinister turn as the hand takes on a mind of its own.

Unboxed is a short piece that revels in its minimalism. It’s impressive to consider what can be achieved with just a white backdrop and a shoebox, as there’s an overwhelming simplicity to the entire affair. Sure one can easily pierce the veil and see where the strings are attached, but when it’s performed this well one cannot be anything other than impressed. Doron is clearly a highly talented physical performer and the way that he manipulates the hand to make it feel like anything but his own is remarkable. 

Towards the end, the show almost descends into the absurd. Despite this, Unboxed remains true to its themes and intent. Moreover, it successfully captures a feeling so many will have been experiencing during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Doron initially seeks to reach out to others and escape his loneliness through the creation of his initial video; he has ordered ‘a friend’ for the same reason. Ultimately though, he finds himself discovering more about himself and the world in the process.

MANIPULATE runs from the 27 Jan – 7 Feb 2021