First Theatre Company’s production of The Shadow Box is an emotional, well-curated and alluring piece of theatre. From set to the performances, each element is impressive and essentially cohesive, working together seamlessly to create a symbolic story all whilst being standout elements on their own. Directed by Lauren Peach and Moritz Afridi, the story follows three terminally ill patients living out their final days in three separate cottages. They share their space with relatives, each dealing with their grief in a personal way. The play really reaches the heart, it is a moving watch and a show that will absorb you into the unfolding events.
Although I mentioned the impressiveness of each entity, one stands out and this is the performance. This cast is talented. Their ability to create believable characters is exceptional. It is this that makes it so easy to be drawn into the action and also makes it such an emotional watch, it feels incredibly real. Olivia Brown as Beverley gives a fabulous performance. Brown delivers her comedic lines perfectly, delivering them subtly whilst also getting laughs from the audience. She has a fantastic stage presence and plays her character so naturally. Opening the show Will Simpson is another strong performer. It is clear he adores his family, who have come to visit him, and as a result, his performance is incredibly touching. His constant smile at his wife as she unpacks is heartwarming and shares the depths of love in their relationship.
Another great element about the acting is the cast’s ability to create atmosphere. The way Brown and Emma Rowson use space to create tension is astounding. Their distance creates a cold atmosphere and we understand their perceptions of one another instantly. Sau Yu Cheung and Simpson do the same but showcase their strong connection through proxemics. Simpson’s ever-moving feet to reach closer to his wife is a touching sight.
Amy Foster playing Agnes does an essential job and creates a character that raises some moral questions for the audience. Agnes writes letters to her sick mother Felicity (Nicole Alexander), as her deceased daughter, to make her mother happy. Although this seems an almost sweet gesture, the play conjures the idea that this is perhaps cruel to give someone hope in a reality that is impossible. The way Foster toys with this idea on stage after having the moral question posed to her by the interviewer (a secretive character whom we never see), makes for an emotional watch. Her tournament is clear and it is easy to empathise with her, especially as she creates a character that is caring and sweet.
The actors have a well-decorated space to work in. As an end on stage, it is split into three sections representing the outside of the cottages, the living room and the cottage. Each is thought through and has appropriate props to fill each room. At times it does become tricky to see some of the actors’ faces, however. There are times when actors’ backs are to the audience or their faces are a little too turned upstage, but this is only a minor point.
The play also beautifully discusses the realities of life. It raises this inspiring thought that we should grasp each moment we have because you never know what tomorrow can bring. These moments stir emotions and make you ponder, a key showcase of what a powerful play this is. Crucially there are also funny moments which bring about much-needed moments of comic relief. Nicole Alexander showcases her comedic talents upon her entrance. Alexander is a brilliant performer and her first moments on stage show this point.
Over The Shadow Box is a fantastic production. It is an incredibly touching, interesting and inspiring story. Striking the balance between realistic and optimistic, it is an uplifting watch. The cast, creative and production team have created a wonderful show!
Image credit: First Theatre Company