All Boxed Up, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Alex Dowding

You wake up every day, stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen, pour yourself a bowl of cereal, gaze at that oh-so-cheery character on the box and wonder what the hell they could be so happy about. Sound familiar? Well, All Boxed Up is what happens when writer Sammy Kissin stares at the lifeless eyes on the box until they start staring back.

It’s one of those strange concept shows that really shouldn’t work, as it’s essentially just one bizarre idea played out to the absolute limit of sense. But David Kirkbride’s direction just keeps it from jumping the shark and losing its audience. Performed as a wake eulogy with an intro from David Attenborough (no, really), actress Robin Steegman laments the loss of her “Big Tony” who is now encased in a rather large vase.

Spinning memories about how they met in America and fell in love, it’s filled with the warmth and humour you’d expect at a wake. Except the thing that’s slightly different is that Tony, is, or rather was, a cartoon tiger. The Tony the Tiger of Frosties fame to be exact. What follows is a perversely pun-filled show holding a fun-house mirror up to the seedier side of advertising mascots and the industry itself. Egos are dissected, heroes are burned and dieting fads are dismantled with wit and a cynical eye.

Boxed Up is a beautifully surreal and dark take on the ridiculousness that is advertising culture, deftly delivered. If you’re after something off-beat and tongue-in-cheek in VAULT Festival’s final week, you’d be hard pressed to find something smarter.

Boxed Up runs through 17 March.

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