City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Music Box Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 21 August 2012

The Music Box: publicity image.
Show details
The Vault
Recursion Theatre Company
Running time: 
Emma Stirling (writer/co-director), Pete Skidmore (co-director), Rhodri Karim (composer), Anna Moser (artist).
Sarah Malcolm (Laura), Emma Stirling (Tess), Oliver Marsh (Blake), James Evans (Oliver), Helena Blair (The Mother), Pete Skidmore (The Doctor).

The Music Box takes us into the mind of a child who has been shielded from the outside world by an overly defensive mother.

Initially it bears similarities to the confined “Room” of Emma Donoghue’s novel – viewing the “head-space” of a child who knows nothing of the outside world – but this is soon dispelling by the deliberately muddled plot.

This is an allegorical room, where the sick Laura’s fevered mind summons characters that might be imaginary.  Amongst these are siblings who she cares for but controls and a boyfriend who threatens to disrupt this game of not-so-happy families.  To Laura the closed door presents a barrier both to progress, to memories and also to a threatening world of adulthood. Her childish fear of monsters behind the door is manifested in the figure of the doctor, whose ministrations might be curing or killing her.

The interpretation of the figures is in part up to the audience as the non-linear, episodic plot circles the bed, starting in the middle and ending with a coda of the beginning. The text is a mix of staccato lines and more languid poetry. When descriptive (“we toast in bed, honeyed”) it can work, but is often both portentous and pretentious – “We’ve been corkscrewed onto shores of unfamiliar seas, all washed up”.

Similarly the blurring of reality and imagination is only partly successful in conferring an impression of escalating threat. There may be Sartre-esque ideas of connection, control and freedom in there but the multi-disciplinary style and overlapping, indistinct plots appears just too ambitious. The production is not helped by its studied formalised look with “Pierrot” makeup and matching costumes which make it look like a satire of postmodern theatre that you might see in a Woody Allan film.

In the central role as Laura, Sarah Malcolm does what she can with the lines. Elsewhere there are examples of terribly poor acting.

We are told that this production represents “the finest acting talent of Cambridge University”. While confidence is to be applauded, one can’t help but feel that they have become too close to their creation and need to reconnect with the real world outside the music box.

Show Times: Runs to 27 August 2012; 6.10pm

Ticket Prices: £7 (£5)