The Bunker Theatre, London – until 13 April 2019
Monsay Whitney’s Box Clever is not an easy watch. Marnie (Redd Lily Roche) is dealing with a life long mental illness, former addiction and a threat of domestic violence from an ex as well as raising her daughter in a refuge as it is no longer safe to go to her own home. Even if it was, Social Services won’t let her.
This play is a dark look at the bureaucracy of being poor and vulnerable. Marnie’s battles with her refuge support worker, her mother and the other authority figures that come into her life as she is ignored is a scary reminder that there might not be anywhere for us to turn when it all gets too much.
Whitney’s writing is still full of humour, her lines about South East Londoners descending from prisoners and mental hospital patients (“You can tell in their eyes”) is a welcome relief from Marnie’s difficult life, living in a mouse-infested refuge and also raises questions about the safety of this places.
When Marnie’s daughter is put at risk it is Marnie’s parenting that comes into question, not the circumstances. Roche is an actress to look out for, as Marnie, she puts on a tough shell, a rough voice but that vulnerability is there, not just in her blood-stained clothes but in her poor life choices that will haunt her for the foreseeable future.
She also metamorphises into other characters; her four-year-old daughter, her untrustworthy mother and her nemesis support worker. You feel for Marnie because something has gone terribly wrong; she’s a clever woman let down by circumstances.
As part of a double bill with Killymuck it is a real shame that both plays aren’t being given a chance to shine. The second of the double bill (which alternates) starts at 9pm and it is a real problem if The Bunker want more people to see these productions, which both offer a unique role of women in working/benefit class society.