Saturday, 26 August 2017

REVIEW: A Rat in a Box at Courtyard Theatre

Rat in a Box takes a long hard look at the harsh realities of the renting market, for twenty something’s in London. The action unfolds in Edwina’s Kensington house, where she unashamedly rents out the box room to Nigel, small room to Greta and cellar to Cindy. Thrown into the mix the characters must navigating money, self-worth and highly volatile love lives with some explosive results. The set is sparse, with only plain cardboard boxes stacked high to signify moving, transience and basic living conditions familiar to renters. 

Edwina, a cross between Edina Monsoon and Cruella De Vil, is played by Ella Banstead-Salim who gives a compelling and highly charged performance with bags of stage presence. She wields her power as property owner with tyranny, but as with all tyrants we see insecurities and flaws that for all her prosperity leads no less to success than the intended minions she employs, under the guise of tenants. 

Nigel, played by James Messer is a genuinely funny and endearing presence in the play. Struggling with relationships, masculinity and self-respect his story line is the perfect example of the antihero. We care deeply when he finally asserts himself to the bully Derek played by James McClelland, supported beautifully by his housemate and newly won love interest Greta, played with humour and nuance by Emily Windham. 

The strongest moments in the play are undoubtedly the sequences, with provide unexpected insight into the character’s inner worlds. The slow motion spectacle of a human size rat straddling Nigel, and the fistfight set to classical music are hilarious and if anything it would have been good to see more of this stylised direction; with such flair we can hope the company develops more of this for
later projects. 

The themes under scrutiny here are not anything new in terms of conflict with the city and coming of age, however with witty writing and compelling performances this youthful company are only to be encouraged. This is an entertaining and pacey night of theatre, with laughs a plenty on an all too relatable subject. 

Review by Anna Williams

Rating: ★★★★
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