How many times have you walked past someone who is homeless and wondered how did they find themselves in that position? Written by Daniel Keene and directed by Edwina Strobl, Boxman looks at one such person, living on the streets of London. In the case of ‘Ringo’ (who is played by Reice Weathers) his predicament follows childhood experiences that are hard to fathom.
In an undisclosed African country, Ringo’s father is taken away from him. The soldiers come for him too, much to his mother’s chagrin. From the age of 11, Ringo has to serve as a ‘conscripted’ soldier – taught how to kill and expected to do so. The play doesn’t offload all of his story at once, but discloses his past bit-by-bit in the relatively ‘uneventful’ existence he has now. Through his gentle demeanour, we ‘ease’ into his world, despite our privilege.
References abound about Oval station and the greenery nearby (which are close to the theatre that hosts this performance). In doing so, Weathers paints a picture of someone we can totally imagine – and how in all likelihood not many people would have anything to do with.
Ringo asks the audience to imagine the worst thing that has ever happened to you. “War,” he says “is having the worst thing happen to you every day.” He expounds on this by saying if war lasts long enough, one eventually becomes numb and the things that were of great value cease to matter.
After years as a soldier, Ringo makes it back home. Only there is no mother, father or sister. Not even a village where they once lived. What does something like this do to one’s identity, when everyone you ever known is dead and gone? Ringo talks from time to time about ‘God’ – something that was impressed upon him as a child as being of importance. It is from his mother that Ringo has inherted his philosophical and ‘spiritual’ outlook, though we sense that it’s more a perennial reminder of his her than of any personal solace.
As for his ‘moniker’ – an Anglicised pronounciation of his African name. However, as a child soldier, the one silver lining in his existence back then was access to a radio and listening to a station that played a lot of Beatles songs.
So the play comes full circle, with ‘Ringo’– a man without a family or identity – living out of a box, in the country of the Fab Four. His ‘home’ isn’t Buckingham Palace, but apart from the occasional visit by a policeman, Ringo is rarely questioned or given ‘orders’. Perhaps there’s an aspect of penance in his present existence, but after everything that’s happened to his family, what else can anyone take from him..?
© Michael Davis 2018
Boxman played at Blue Elephant Theatre on 4th-6th July.