Boxing Day is an interesting attempt to conceptualise the present and future effects of climate change and its impact on an individual’s life. The script, written by SUDS member Felix Faber, was a relatable reflection of the range of emotions associated with climate grief – apathy, despair, fear, anger, and the faint glimmer of hope that things might turn out ok.
As the production begins the audience walks in to find Alex (Max Seppelt) lying half naked in his room. The set is very detailed and natural, a credit to the design of Eric Jiang, Poppy Tidswell and Milly Kynaston. Fine and intricate detailing outlining the set could easily be seen. The bookshelf, bed with clothes all over, bulging clothes from drawers, books, ping-pong table everything seemed very natural. It was comforting for the audience as well to walk into a well crafted, natural and welcoming set, which I believe is a must, given the fact that “Boxing Day” ran at a length of just 40 minutes.
Alex (Max Seppelt) is a PhD student whose thesis focuses on agriculture whilst Danny (Lara Balken) is working in the field of Social Policies. The production starts with the two of them discussing how things have been going in their individual lives, particularly their love life. Being a short production, the cast successfully manages to enthral the audience’s attention and dives into an abyss that is “Boxing Day”. I say this because there is a lot more to it than just the impact of climate change.
As the plot unfolds they both start lending their perspective on life. While Danny seems to be rather practical and optimistic, Alex tends to be more assertive and pessimistic. They both try to justify their personal choices, influence each other’s perspective on life and eventually realise how baseless their arguments might be. Eventually you find the two characters discussing how they both resent their job or their field of study and how they wish they could change some aspects of their lives.
A scene where Danny talks about being offered a job in Westpac (which is substituted to be a completely diabolic organisation) leads to a heated argument with Alex finally realising how coarse he’s been all this while. He confesses he’s also been rather rough with his father, who recently lost his farm to a bushfire, blaming him for not having stood up against nature’s ordeal and having given up too easily. Faber’s writing, as well as both Seppelt and Balken’s delivery as they discuss the character, provides a detailed portrait of Alex’s dad, even without the character ever being introduced on stage. This extends itself to multiple people discussed by the two leads, which allows the audience to connect and relate with the love they have for their family and friends, and the fear that they may not have much time with them left.
There were parts in the play that could have been more impactful – for instance, a scene where Danny contemplates her decisions whilst she and Alex play table tennis. I presume none of the actors knew how to play, as several balls flew downstage or into the audience, and the actors noticeably both had all of their attention on the ball, causing the scene as a whole to feel lacking in tangible emotional depth.
Despite the multitude of mishaps that occurred during the show, it was wonderful to see how both actors played along with them. Kudos to both of them for their exceptional improv, as I must admit these mishaps were rather unsettling and embarrassing, yet ultimately funny.
In short, Boxing Day deals with the never ending spiral that is life, its various uniformities, the unsettling nerve wrecks of love and, yes, how climate change continues to reform our lives. More importantly, it talks about the grief and sorrow it lends whose traces can be seen in the most personal absolutions of our lives.