THE MAGICAL box that is Christmas is well and truly opened in this spectacular offering and the contents are something to treasure.
Presented with panache and pizzazz from first to last this is a festive frolic which ticks all the boxes both magical and otherwise.
Three youngsters Callum Barmforth, Mae Munuo and Jack Humphrey find themselves embroiled in a battle between magicians Stephen Boxer and Richard Lynch with the very existence of Christmas under threat.
Through adventures taking them into the woodland world, the frozen snowfields and even deep underwater, the trio are thrown into a world of colour and craziness brilliantly created on the stage. A host of equally colourful characters tread the journey with them – a mad rat, devious thieves dressed as vicars, a bishop and a feisty mayor to name but a few.
As good as the cast are, the real star of this whole production has to be the design and the visuals. Tom Piper fills his stage with a picture frame and fills that frame with a endless, chaotic stack of boxes, cupboards and doors. The RSC’s technical team add spectacular lighting and hugely impressive projection to make a show which really is spectacular on all levels.
The staging, movement, visuals and effects just keep coming and there’s never a dull moment.
Like so many tales of magic and mayhem, The Box of Delights has been well-served particularly by the small screen. But where camera trickery and computer-generated gimmickry can do anything required, seeing some of these effects live ‘before your very eyes’ is simply breathtaking. Envy the youngster for whom this is a first experience of what live theatre can do.
A musical score from Ed Lewis which makes a hefty nod to the oft-used Carol Symphony of Hely-Hutchinson, provides songs and carols which will resonate more the closer the show gets to Christmas.
Piers Torday’s script of John Masefield’s book is a fine bridge between the long-lost Englishness of the original and a modern twist aimed at capturing the attention of today’s audience. Justin Audibert’s direction keeps the necessary pace and slickness for such a big show and the performances will get better as the weeks go by.
In the end it has to be said that this show is as good on the inside as the fabulous layers of glitzy wrapping promise. It’s not cheap to take a family to live theatre in this league but included in the cost of this show could well be a lifelong love of the stage and all it has to offer and that’s a gift worth giving.