This year’s offering from Fringe First nominees Portmanteau is a devised piece that examines how adults are so often shaped or boxed in by the restrictions of gender. James is a successful, assertive banker, while his twin Jessica flounders as diffident secretary in marketing. When their parents decide to sell the family home, they are invited to collect the remnants of their youth. The contents of the toy boxes initially provoke gleeful nostalgia, but they both soon realise how their present circumstances were irrevocably forged in those early years.
Boxed In combines lively story-telling techniques and verbatim but in the process of its dramaturgy, Portmanteau get bogged down with slightly indulgent flights of fancy over toys and bands. The play finally gets into its stride as this pair from the Tamagotchi generation contemplate their own futures as parents, forcing them to reappraise the experiences of their youth.
The role of the conflicted Jessica is played with energy and conviction by Lily Beck but to highlight issues of gender conformity, James is portrayed by Rose Wardle. Wardle carries the role well and has a great chemistry with Beck, but it’s a conceit that muddies the water rather than clarifying the issue.