The Importance of Empathy: The Container

Everyone knows the three essentials for survival: water, food, and shelter. But people always seem to forget about our human need for warmth whether it is literal warmth, heat, or a more figurative warmth through relationships with other people. The Container shows us all four of these necessities during its run time but the main takeaway I got from the performance was that having warmth will let people feel safer than water, food, or shelter will.

By Grace Chen

The Container is a story of five refugees trying to get to England via illegal immigration. Although the plot is quite simple, what makes the performance interesting is the relationship between the characters. In the beginning, it is clear that everyone is annoyed with each other and only truly care about their own survival. However, as the characters learn more about each other, the audience can see the respect that they gain for each other. For example, in the very first scene where the container stopped for the first time, all the characters are yelling at each other and arguing even when there is clearly a risk that they will be heard. However, in the end, when they are listening for their surroundings again, everyone whispers when told to be quiet and they ask questions that concern the group and not only themselves. The characters were able to empathize with each other create a human connection that goes deeper than just a person who was in a container with them.

Personally, story wise, the open ending made a big impact on me. I understand that leaving it open ended is necessary as most refugee stories are full of uncertainty and this performance is respecting that. It leaves me with an unsettling feeling because I want these characters to get their freedom but I am also aware of the very likely event in which they get caught. After spending an hour hearing their fears, I couldn’t help but also think of the worst fate for them. But for now, the characters get a happy ending in my imagination and are able to lead better lives.

Regardless of the story, I actually think that this production is better viewed through video than on a stage. Unless the performance is made for a smaller audience, the ability to connect to the audience feels stronger through the computer. This is because the emotions that characters’ faces portray are so important to the story that I don’t think I would have been able to empathize with the characters as well as I did. With the cameras so close, the performance feels more personal, as if the audience is there with the performers. Especially since the setting of the story is in a shipping container, a cramped space, having the cameras close to the actors almost made me feel like I was there with them. There will always be something special about seeing a performance live, but I’m glad I was able to see this show through a screen.

You can watch them on Digital Theatre Plus if you have access to the website.

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