City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Light Boxes, Summerhall, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 17 August 2015

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Grid Iron
Running time: 
Fin den Hertog (writer, director), Judith Doherty (producer), Karen Tennent (set and costume design), Simon Wilkinson (lighting design)
Melody Grove (Selah), Keith Macpherson (Thaddeus), Vicki Manderson (Bianca), Michael John McCarthy (Musician)

Sometimes we miss the all-too-obvious, and sometimes the obvious comes in curious disguises. The latter is rather the case with Shane Jones’ novel ‘Light Boxes’, adapted here for the stage by Fin den Hertog.

‘Light Boxes’ is a curious tale itself, set in a far-off country of fable where February is perpetual and spring has somehow been arrested (perhaps in some literal sense, in spite of the efforts at allegory). Thaddeus, bowed down and browbeaten, is approached by The Solution, all big beak and reminiscent of seventeenth century plague doctors, and urged to take part in an uprising against this calendrical injustice.

In spite of a highly atmospheric set and effective lighting design by Simon Wilkinson, ‘Light Boxes’ never quite manages to get beyond the tricksy.

Keith Macpherson as Thaddeus, Melody Grove as Selah and Vicki Manderson as Bianca all work hard, and Michael John McCarthy brings some musical richness to the proceedings, but there’s too much left untied in this narrative to lift it into the truly allegorical.

Visually and in terms of acting there’s much to admire here, but it feels at times that substance has been sacrificed to style, and that whatever was originally set out to be achieved has got lost along the way.

This is particularly upsetting when one recognises the efforts and genuine achievements of this production and recalls previous Grid Iron successes.

It’s the disappearance of Thaddeus and Selah’s daughter Bianca that precipitates the crisis of the story, but for some reason we are not as fully engaged at this point as we ought to be, hence the reservations expressed in this review.

However, both acting and the technical achievements of this play are, as always with Grid Iron, of a very high order, lifting up the narrative even as it appears to flag.

Runs 7-30 August (Not 11, 18 or 25)