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Handle With Care is a play about life – Review

Handle With CareHandle with Care is a witty, intimate and tenderly crafted piece of theatre. There’s a simplicity to the story that complements the complexity of the form. This is site-specific theatre that entirely utilises the site and your senses. With Dante or Die, everything is choreographed with imagination and detail. We’re in a storage unit, where junk and valuables are stored because their owners have no space or no clue what to do with them. Often they leave them for years or never return for them. But all these items meant something to someone once. This is what Dante or Die and Chloe Moss have invited you here to investigate.

The main storyline follows Zoe (Amy Dolan/Rachael Spence) from 1988 to 2016 – from an optimistic and naive teenager through turbulent relationships and motherhood to her natural conclusion. Zoe’s normal, nice, a little broken maybe, a little confused but she’s trying. Young Zoe is all kinetic energy and bad choices and her transition from drinking and raving to motherhood is a theatrical highlight. Motherhood changes Zoe, the handover from Dolan’s Zoe to Spence’s Zoe is beautifully done – both investigating and gauging each other – both who they were and who they will become. It’s a perfect theatre moment – Zoe is no longer the same.

New Zoe is calmer and her life is slower than young Zoe, but there’s still adventure and drama to be found and some of her ‘stuff’ that she’s still hauling around is weighing her down. Items that were once treasured possessions are now just more belongings in boxes that she can’t seem to shift.

There are small clues and extra details that you can investigate as you are ushered from scene to storage container, along corridors and into dark spaces, like playing a computer game – in a good way. Sometimes the audience are spectators, sometimes props and very occasionally there are moments of interaction. The detail is delightful, from the smells and music choices to the objects that entirely place a time or create euphoric recall.

The cast are all brilliant, playing the intimacy and honesty of these moments, and Moss’s dialogue is true and authentic with a tint of humour. We piece together the story through these moments and there are no long explanatory monologues (thank goodness) rather it is up to us to fill in the gaps and the back story. And what did happen to Zoe’s brother Mikolas (Benjamin Humphrey)? I missed him more and more as the play continued. He was so central in the opening of the play, it felt a little empty without him – but again, I imagine that’s part of the point. Handle with Care is a play about life. And not everything is answered and wrapped up with a bow.

5 Star Rating

Review by Roz Wyllie

Dante or Die present Handle with Care, a new, site specific story of one woman and her belongings through a lifetime of self-storage.

Written and Created by award-winning playwright Chloe Moss and Dante or Die founders Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan, this promenade production will be performed in the storage units of Lok’nStore (Harlow, Reading & Poole), Ready Steady Store (Salford) and Urban Locker Old Street.

The cast includes Amy Dolan (Mr Selfridge/Coronation Street), Stephen Henry (ENO’s Secret Garden/Miss Julie), Benjamin Humphrey (Housed, Old Vic), Terry O’Donovan (I Do/ Be Here Now), Rachael Spence (The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries/Theatre of Blood) and Elan Weedon (War Horse/The Hairy Ape).

In a world of easy consumerism and changing life styles, the self-storage facility has become ubiquitous up and down the country, crammed full of stories of our lives past and present.

Handle with Care examines how we accumulate objects and the meaning we place on those seemingly banal belongings, how they tell our individual stories and ultimately can give us a sense of home. Join Zoe from 1988 to the present as she stores and stores and stores as the years go on and on and on.

Building on the success of their previous critically acclaimed promenade and site-responsive work, most recently I Do (Almeida Festival and Hilton Hotels followed by UK & Ireland tour), La Fille à la Mode at the Theatre Royal Haymarket & National Theatre and Side Effects (Laban Theatre, Linbury Studio, The Place). Co-Artistic Director Daphna Attias regularly creates nationwide tours with her celebrated dance-theatre company Peut-Être Theatre & one of Terry O’Donovan’s last site-specific production as director, On The Wire, was nominated for Best Production in The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2015.

Handle with Care is a co-commission between South Street Reading, The Lowry, Harlow Playhouse and the Lighthouse Poole. The production is supported by Shoreditch Town Hall.

Thursday 2 to Saturday 25 June
Show performed at Urban Locker, Old Street
Tickets via Shoreditch Town Hall on 020 7739 6176


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