Adelaide Festival Review: The Photo Box

Who: Emma Beech
Where: Space Theatre
When: until 7 March
Tickets: here

Emma Beech is the ninth of nine children. When her parents turned 60, she tells us that they started preparing for their eventual deaths. We’re doing you a favour, the siblings are told. As part of this, their dad puts family photos into nine boxes, one for each of the children. This show is the second Emma has done with her photo box.

After what Emma considers a not very good piece of performance art, she has taken this box of photos and all of her family’s memories and produced what I consider a very, very good piece of theatre. The Photo Box transports us to her family home in Barmera. She takes us through the stories of her life. We hear about each of her siblings, her former flames, her wild youth, and the birth of her triplets.

Emma is such a wonderful storyteller. She is warm as she addresses the room, taking time to look around the audience. She laughs with us. She’s charming and she’s honest. She draws us all in. The person sitting next to me reacts to some of her stories, the way you would if someone was talking directly to you, with little oh!s and tutting sounds. At the end of the show, I feel as if I know Emma. I think the person next to me does too.

The set, designed by Meg Wilson, is very simple, but very effective. The frames hanging from the stage roof flick between photographs and videos that accompany each of the stories. The blue carpet transforms smoothly from an empty stage backdrop to Lake Bonney Barmera to Emma’s family living room and back.

I am so transported for the duration of the show. I am drawn up in the stories of Emma’s life. Funny, warm, and deeply heartfelt, this is a special show. It’s a beautiful example of what storytelling can be.

4 1/2 stars

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