12 years ago I began my acting career in an amateur theatre company called MACYouth Theatre. Many years before that I encountered theatre for the first time. Two big moments in my life and in relation to theatre. ‘The Box’ and, for that matter, ‘Badac Theatre’ is yet another significant moment in my theatre experience. A production that reminds us of the power of theatre, and further reminds us that it does not just have to be an ego trip and does not necessarily have to be pleasurable.
A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I’d be interested filming a trailer for a company called Badac Theatre for their performance ‘The Box’. Ever the enthusiast, and ever eager to forget just how busy I already am and add more to the schedule I agreed, and set to work making the trailer (which I’ll put at the end of this review). I didn’t know quite what to expect, I’d heard of them before and I knew their primary focus was human rights issues but my knowledge passed that was a bit limited. After talking for a while, Steve (the main actor and head of the company) said something that for a couple of years I had forgotten. He said that his company did not set out to make theatre that “pleasures the audience but gives them an experience”. I hadn’t properly thought about that since college theatre studies where our performances were largely influenced by Berkoff and Artaud. So that began to open my mind, but I think most of all I was surprised at just how different the full play felt from the rehearsals I saw while filming.
Last night I went to the theatre and got ready to watch the performance, already knowing it had a draining intensity to it, I had prepared my mind for it. Then I saw a sign ‘This performance requires audiences to stand up for the full performance’ and away from gigs or concerts I hadn’t really been to a performance like that before. Audiences were chatting away and whispering about how tired they already were, that they didn’t understand why they had to stand and then we went in. The performance started, and before long, when my back started to ache and my feet began to hate their fixed position I understood that the play was more than just a mental experience. It was an experience of solitary confinement, it would be wrong and egotistical for us to sit in chairs watching a man, how could we connect as strongly unless both our bodies and our minds were becoming tired too? As the main character’s mind slowly descends revealing trauma, and showing signs of schizophrenia , our minds and bodies began to feel intensely exhausted.
Once again, this performance is not, in the traditional sense, enjoyable, you don’t go to it to feel better about life or replace that sorbet and The Notebook mix when you’re feeling sad, you arrive to be enlightened, and are not let down. It is an interesting and deeply researched exploration of a subject that many people do not know about, and furthermore, have a very one-sided belief on the small section they do know. Theatre is the perfect medium for revolution and for educating naive minds, this performances forgets the idea of criminals and their crimes and focuses on the cruel nature of solitary confinement on the criminal. If you get the chance, go watch it… but like I said, do not go to enjoy it, it is a divisive piece of theatre that some will love and some will hate. I, however, will continue to defend it.