Lockdown review: Life in Boxes

The latest online production from The Space brings two bereaved sisters together over a box of trivia during lockdown. Zoe, a nurse in the UK, talks to Beth, a musician in New York, by Zoom.

Isabel Dixon’s play teases with the idea of family secrets and similarities while leaving a lot of questions unanswered. As the sisters explore their late mother’s secret life they have to face their preconceptions and biases about her and themselves.

Expertly directed by Adam Hemming, Life in Boxes is a two-hander delivered live over Zoom and available to view by free reservation. The Space has become a leader in live streams during lockdown, and this play is both profound and presient.

Screencap from broadcast of Life in Boxes

It is set in lockdown, of course, so issues around long shifts in the NHS and job insecurity in the arts come up, along with how people are remembered when they are physically and spiritually gone.

Zoe, the less showy of the pair, was the home carer and the one who prided herself in knowing everything about her declining parent. When it becomes clear this was not the case, the sisters bond over theatre programmes, a wig, a photo of friends not really known.

This play is a sweet reminiscence with asibling subtext. At first it may we hard to accept these two as sisters, but life and circumstance has changed them. Who is more like their mum? Who knew her and understood her the best? Who was her favourite?

Illustration to support Life in Boxes

And in the end, the healing and bonding power of music, when words are not enough or perhaps cannot be said. Lizzie Schenk is Beth, Chloe Wade is Zoe. There’s an exchange which is as sad as it is direct: “Do you ever wonder what she would have achieved?” “Without the cancer?” “Without us.”

Life in Boxes was streamed live on 21 September by The Space. To donate to their current crowdfunder, go to https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-space—coronavirus-survival-fund.