Aug 5 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩ One-man wonder

Gilded Balloon (Venue 14) Wed 30 July – Mon 25 August 2014

Many plays tread a fine line between comedy and pathos. Such delicacy is not for Boxman in the Gilded Balloon Turret. Rather, it unheedingly hurls itself across that line with extremely successful results.

Ruaraidh Murray is Boxman. Photo: Mat Hay

Ruaraidh Murray is Boxman. Photo: Mat Hay

Edinburgh performer Ruaraidh Murray is the sole performer in his own play, as a man who has been sleeping in a cardboard box in his living room since his marriage broke up. Troubled by incessant worries, his life finally starts to look up when he meets Asda check-out girl Mandy. But is getting a job at Asda to be nearer to her the idea of a stalker or just a weirdo? And how will working on the wines and spirits aisle suit a recovering alcoholic?

This probably doesn’t sound very funny – but it is. Murray’s energetic, frenetic performance is added to expert timing that makes the cheesiest lines funny. He combines a stand-up’s ability to connect with the audience with an actor’s ability to create a character. The end result is extremely likeable – if perhaps not for everyone, as some of the subject matter is decidedly grown-up. As is the language, notably from a foul-mouthed Speak and Spell machine.

There is also a great amount of pathos – more than would be expected from a figure whose long hair, headband and dressing-gown suggest at first glance a down-at-heel, red-haired John McEnroe. The way Boxman’s background is filled in, particularly the reasons for his attachment to cardboard boxes, is extremely affecting, and everyone is rooting for the character by the end.

undoubted talent

Combining these elements is not nearly as easy as Murray makes it look here. He manages to take Boxman’s worries about turning the gas off from something understandable into something ridiculous, then even further, making it the subject of humour without sacrificing the audience’s sympathy.

Murray’s undoubted talent is well served by the direction of Tim Stark, who ensures variety and purpose throughout, making full use of a very small performance area.

The storyline may not stand up to the closest of scrutiny, but it is strong enough as a vehicle for the excellent performance. Often you will see a one-person show that is more ‘spoken word’ than theatre in its lack of attention to the visual. That is definitely not the case here. Murray’s physical gifts mean that we are completely able to see the story unfolding – even if, in the case of unfortunate emissions in the fruit and veg section, we would prefer not to.

This show deserves a bigger audience than it can get where it is: stuck up in the top of the Gilded Balloon. Ludicrously charming and well worth a visit.

Running time 1 hour
Gilded Balloon, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Wed 30 July – Mon 25 August 2014
Daily at 4.15 pm
Tickets from:
Ruaraidh Murray’s website:


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