Theatre Review: Soapbox Racer

12 May 2023

By Tegan Oxley

Soapbox Racer is a brilliant, contemporary play, currently on at the Alphabetti fringe theatre. It follows Kay (Harrison Rowley-Lynn), an air-headed, but well-meaning, teen in her wild attempt to win her ex-boyfriend back. Throughout the play, she builds a soapbox covered in the “love doodles” Rory, the aforementioned ex, gifted her, and plans to win him back at the Hertford Soapbox Derby. 

I only mentioned one actor’s name in the introduction as Soapbox Racer is a one-woman show. Harrison Rowley-Lynn carries the show with heart, humour, and heaps of personality. She impressively acts as every character Kay interacts with, without ever confusing the audience or disrupting our immersion. Throughout the show’s hour runtime, Rowley-Lynn upholds the show’s energy to the very end. 

Aiding Rowley-Lynn’s performance, the atmosphere of the theatre is wonderfully immersive. The set grants an intimate and grounded feel: small piles of bricks mark the walls of Kay’s garage, the show inviting us into her home by literally removing the fourth (and side) wall. Clutter decorating shelves on the stage’s back wall initially appears to only add to the relatable messy, homely vibe. However, later in the show, various nick-nacks are used as props to further the show’s theme of building new relationships from the remnants of old ones.

Kay’s garage door comprises a part of the back wall, serving a dual purpose as atmospheric set-dressing, and a convenient surface to project Rory’s love doodles. An often prominent cardboard box labelled “Mam’s things” also serves to pique our interest in Kay’s absent mother, foreshadowing the reason for Kay and her dad’s awkward relationship. 

Recommended Reading: Five Details You Missed in Hamilton 

Of course, the star of the props is the nominal soapbox. It hides on stage beneath Kay’s shelves, a large white cloth draped over the invention, before its dramatic unveiling. A simple, wooden box Kay could’ve realistically built, the soapbox frequently sits centre-stage, reflecting its importance as a vehicle of the plot. “Doodlebug”, as Kay calls it, reflects the eccentricity of Kay that drove her relationship with her rigid, stickler-for-the rules -best friend Vicki into the ground, and the slow but steady rekindling of Kay and her dad’s relationship. 

The sound design of Soapbox Racer also elevates the show. Snippets of radio coverage, the overly loud Pointless theme song Kay’s dad uses to tune out the world, excerpts from the Soapbox derby consent form, and character-relevant music really add to the charm that this show is densely packed with. 

The show’s writer, Ben Schawtz, seems very pleased with this charming production that more than does justice to the show, which premiered in Shiefiled in 2019 with a seemingly much lower budget.

If I’ve intrigued you with this review, then I urge you to go see the show at Alphabetti Theatre. Tickets are available until Saturday 13th May.

5/5 stars

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