The Photo Box

the photo box adelaide festival 2022Vitalstatistix and Brink Productions. Festival Centre - Space Theatre. 5 Mar 2022


I’ve always said, the only ordinary people are the people you don’t know. Emma Beech, creator and performer of The Photo Box is no ordinary person. The creative heads at Vitalstatistix and Brink, Emma Webb and Chris Drummond respectively, have watched with delight how she has grown her capacity to extract the extraordinary from the lives of others and retell it with alacrity, humour and sensitivity on stage. In The Photo Box, she turns her remarkable talent on herself.


Beech grew up in a huge family on the banks of Lake Barmera. She missed the hub bub so much, she had triplets. The youngest of nine by a country mile, her elderly parents surrendered the family pics for some organization and Beech discovered her mob was interesting too.


Lovely old photos in faded pink tones of the child Emma are splashed on to movable boards upstage that simulate album viewing. The set evokes the lake itself complete with one of the ubiquitous dead trees derived from frequent re-flooding. Early on, Beech wisely eschews strict chronology for thematic grouping and narrative arc. Christmases, boyfriends, jobs, big brothers, parents, school, and partying fly off the photos and inhabit the versatile performer. Sporting an orange suit, her slim figure belies birthing triplets - the stories from the hospital nursery were very poignant. Whereas Matisse conveyed fulsome form in a sketch of few brushstrokes, Beech theatrically evokes family, friends and acquaintances with skillful minimalism. Director Mish Grigor shows off Beech’s capacity to transit between scenes and themes with grace and assurance, and associate biography with whimsical nostalgia and poignant memory. Some family make cameo appearances in film and in person. Confessions and intimate detail must have provided a gamut of emotions for Beech during show development that exudes as tender humour and honest reflection on stage.


Many of us are challenged by old photos, often because of fossilised interpretations of the past. Emma Beech inspires us to plunge in and have a fresh look with our subsequent accumulated life experience and to discover that the past is not forever the same. Bravo!


David Grybowski


When: 3 to 7 Mar

Where: Space Theatre