Handle With Care (Urban Locker Shoreditch)

Dante or Die’s show about materialism takes place in a storage unit

Lock it up and throw away the key. This site-responsive show for self-storage spaces is just a load of old junk: grindingly literal, irredeemably unimaginative and deathly, deathly dull. Over an hour forty, Dante or Die pedal the knackered, moth-eaten message that all the stuff we accumulate is no substitute for a life well lived and loves well loved. Materialism is meaningless, yeah? Now carpe that diem. If you haven’t had that thought already, all the site-specific theatre in the world won’t help you.

It’s 1988 and Zoe’s brother Mickolas is packing his belongings – his vinyls and porn mags – to go off on a gap year. He never comes back. All Zoe has left of him are his things – his letters, a Polaroid, the shirt that clings to his smell. She keeps hold of them for the rest of her life, these totems of him, lugging them from one flat to the next – through an explosive first love and her wild child years, through marriage and motherhood and into middle-age – as the bric-a-brac piles up around her, the flotsam and jetsam of a disposable culture.

You’ve seen this life a thousand times before – a woman defined entirely by her relationships, each its own rite of passage. We shuffle from one self-storage unit to another, and clock how her possessions shift from studenty tit-tat to baby-grows and objets d’art, how clumpy retro gives way to sleek chic and tech. She lumps her belongings in with her boyfriend’s, then divvies things up after a divorce. The keepsakes are all handmade – a painting from art school, Mickey’s mixtape, her daughter’s school drawings. Music drags us through the decades: Supergrass, Gotye, Ryan Adams.

At one point, a bloke pops out of his locker carrying three bags of Chinese takeaway, stops and stares at us. Nothing to do with the show, but he demonstartes exactly what’s missing – a sense of the absurd. Self-storage units are full of secrets and surprises. Behind each banana yellow door, you could find anything. Each is an empty space that could take you elsewhere, a world of its own waiting to happen. Filling them with boxes of stuff is literally the least interesting thing you could do. These strip-lit corridors, with their endless identical doors, should be disorientating and strange – an urban rabbit-hole – but there’s none of that here. We’re marshalled, officiously, this way and that, crammed into one metal container after another, barely half-watching and still grasping it all. Imagine what Shunt might have made of this space. Imagine dancing girls and astronauts, smoke machines and flares. What an unfeasible waste. Bin it.

Handle with Care runs at the Urban Locker in Shoreditch until 25th June.