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BrumHour saw The Box of Delights at the invite of The RSC.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
Review: The Box of Delights at The RSC Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Directed by Justin Audibert written by Piers Torday
The story begins with an older Kay Harker talking to his grandson and recalling a time when he was twelve or thirteen himself. We jump back in time to Christmas holidays in the 1930s where Kay Harker (Callum Balmforth) meets a curious man called Cole Hawlings (Stephen Boxer) with his dog. This meeting unfolds a huge mystery involving fake clergy, jewel thieves and pagan legends.
Whilst The Box of Delights is a book by John Masefield, I particularly know it for the BBC TV drama from the mid-1980s, the opening theme of that programme The third movement of the Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson (It was also used for a previous radio play version) The waves of nostalgia are very real to me as it plays out across the theatre.
I was really delighted to be watching this production like the big kid I really am! Kay Harker has a very overactive imagination and the story that comes from this is a traditional children’s adventure with some magical or Sci-Fi elements depending on how you view it.
Time travel, history, murder and mystery are all used here plus there is the love for fantastic adventures that were always traditionally written for boys (reluctant readers) Kay’s friend Peter Jones (Jack Humphrey) is larger than life and thirteen going on thirty, his exaggerated portrayal of an upper middle class privately educated teenager a fear of everything is delightful. Peter’s sister Maria (Mae Munuo) in contrast is an adventure-loving Tomboy with a fascination for kidnappings, fights and guns, Mae is so much for fun for every single second she captures the stage.
Callum Balmforth’s Kay Harker is solid and reliable with the craziness around him leading us confidently through the story. With so many excellent actors here playing characters I’ve known since childhood, it is tricky to pick a favourite, Claire Price shines as Pouncer struts around the stage, Nana Amoo-Gottfried as Joe and Tom Kanji as Charles are understatedly menacing and main villain Abner Brown (Richard Lynch) feels like he fell out the pages of the book and came to life.
The production makes great use of the whole stage, with projection, wire work, trap doors and smoke to keep the audience wondering where to look. The music and the vocals are excellent.
A magical production The Box of Delights is at The RSC until 7th January, book tickets here: rsc.org.uk/the-box-of-delights.