On a sweltering September evening, inside a dimly lit yet blissfully air-conditioned auditorium, Proforca Theatre’s “The Shatter Box” took me on a thrilling, if somewhat uneven, journey. In the intimate setting of the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, nestled between an impressively-looking giant cage and a desk, I found myself alternately captivated and mildly let down by this intriguing production.
From the moment the lights dimmed, the potential of “The Shatter Box” shone brightly. The concept was undeniably compelling: Knight, a man confined to a cage, with the truth as his sole escape route. The palpable tension in the air signalled the start of a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game of interrogation between Knight and Raena, the enigmatic interrogator. With such a gripping premise, my expectations soared.
Proforca Theatre has seriously impressed me in the past with their casting and quality of acting in general – and it’s no different here. “The Shatter Box” cast showcased undeniable talent, adding depth and intensity to their characters. Kieran Dee, portraying Knight, faced the challenging task of carrying most of the emotional weight of the show, and he executed it brilliantly, even while mostly stationary within the cage. His portrayal conveyed the agony of torture and the sharp wit of a smart-ass during interrogations, endowing Knight with charisma and making his final choice feel authentic.
Dodie Finamore, as Raena, delivered a meticulously crafted performance as a cold, professional investigator. At times, her dialogue and behaviour bordered on being otherworldly, yet they aligned seamlessly with the dystopian ambience of the show. A special nod must be given to Nick Hardie, making his professional debut as Castle, the security guard. He exuded confidence and prickly charm, establishing himself as an actor to watch in the future.
Immersive Staging and Design:
The show’s staging is commendable, with a sturdy cage at its centre and well-crafted costumes that lend authenticity to the dystopian setting (whenever I see a coloured jumpsuit like this I think of “Squid Game” – quite a matching connection in this case).
However, the background noises, predominantly industrial, occasionally became distractingly loud, pulling attention away from the on-stage dialogues.
An intriguing aspect was the actors’ interaction with the audience, offering a fresh perspective and immersing us deeper into the drama. Yet, this trick lost its impact upon repetition by the second half of the show.
The well-planned pre and post-show playlist, featuring Muse’s “Compliance” was a brilliant touch that added to the overall experience.
A Disappointing Plot Twist:
Regrettably, “The Shatter Box” ultimately faltered due to its writing. Despite the captivating premise, the story resembled Swiss cheese, riddled with holes that left me feeling disheartened. The long-anticipated revelation or concealed secret, expected to be the show’s pinnacle, turned out to be disappointingly minor, leaving the conclusion somewhat shallow. While the final moments of the play did offer a glimmer of redemption for the story, it was abruptly cut short at a tantalising juncture.
Hints of a story of a previous prisoner are given, but we never get to know what happened and if it even was a lie or truth (I must say, I got a bit frustrated because I imagined it was just a false story created to make Knight talk – but seems like I may her overthought it in this case).
Raena’s backstory remained frustratingly unexplored, briefly alluded to only in the show’s leaflet description, revealing a glaring gap in the script. There was a wealth of potential to delve deeper into her past, her connections to the enigmatic “company,” and her motivations. Knight’s character could have benefited from a more assertive and robust persona, as he was written with less substance than anticipated.
An Appetite for More:
In the end, “The Shatterbox” left me wanting more – a lot more. While the post-show Q&A and the accompanying leaflet provided much-needed context, a play should ideally stand strong on its own merits. Despite its shortcomings, this production succeeds in delivering moments of intrigue and suspense that lingered in my mind long after the final bows.
I received the ticket to see the show in exchange for an honest review
The Shatter Box
WRITTEN BY: JAMES LEWIS
DIRECTED BY: DAVID BRADY
5-16 September 2023
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre