Box Of Tricks
85 minutes, no interval
13 February 2019 - 23 February 2019, then a national tour to April 13
Passionate, powerful, very personal and not least a pretty astonishing feat of memory, poet, playwright and performer David Judge’s latest is a gripping exploration of the power of paternal love reaching across racial divides, even when you’re not the father.
Judge himself is dual heritage and the script here is “based on autobiographical events”. It really couldn’t be otherwise it is so deeply felt, with so much revealing angst that it makes the evening a very brave one too.
David, son of a white mother from Wythenshawe and black father from Moss Side, tells the story of his white step-father Dave, as David himself steps into flashback to recount the tale. Judge uses an impressive and immersive flow of often poetic language with actions related in a first person present narrative describing the action as it unfolds, all in lightly-accented Manc.
Dave, first seen acting as a big brother taxi service for his sister Angela, soon hooks up with Ange’s friend Joanne while she is pregnant with another, black, bloke’s baby. From the beginning the very thought of being a father, even if by proxy, inspires Dave with a love he has never felt before and it is this which carries him through a fraught relationship and on to single parenthood.
Judge’s performance, hopping in and out of several minor characters as well as Dave/David is a real tour de force with brilliant timing and conviction. His mastery of his own text is perhaps not unexpected but it’s pretty astonishing to watch. He’s pretty physically agile too – there’s a multi-coloured skeleton-frame car on stage to provide some visual interest and he often uses it as a climbing frame.
I have to say I did lose my grip on the narrative towards the end and more clarity as to who is whom amid the hysteria around this point would have been helpful and, as ever, I’d cut a few minutes here and there. But overall, well deserving of the first night’s standing ovation.