Fresh from a six-month run Off-Broadway, Squeeze Box has won several awards for writer and performer Ann Randolph, including a “Best Solo Performance Award” from the Los Angeles Times. The original show was produced by Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, and has undergone several rewrites since its conception, the end result being this beautifully polished gem of a show, which skilfully combines warm storytelling, dark humour and insightful characterisation.
In this autobiographical tale, Randolph talks about her experiences working in a shelter for homeless women with mental illnesses. In the course of her lively monologue she plays several different characters with warmth and shrewd perceptiveness, instilling even the most repugnant individuals with dignity and worth. The story that unfolds is not one of epic tragedy or grand heroics but of everyday struggles and small achievements and Randolph weaves her tale with eloquence and a self-depreciating comedy. The audience is drawn into the story, empathising with Randolph’s situation as she looks back on a happier past and questions the importance of her present work. It is an incredibly skilful and passionate performance.
This show would have received five stars were it not for the fact that Randolph cops out with a syrupy happy-ever-after ending which is at odds with the rest of this fiercely unsentimental show. However, this is the only blemish on an impressively written and beautifully performed piece of theatre, which sets the standard for solo performance at this year’s Fringe.