Unwrapping the Magic: A Box of Delights at the RSC

The enchanting allure of “The Box of Delights” came to life at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in a mesmerising performance that left us wrapped in the warmth of the festive season. The stage was set for a journey through the triumph of good over evil and the boundless power of imagination, creating the perfect festive production.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a renowned theater company based in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It was founded in 1961 and is dedicated to performing the works of William Shakespeare, as well as contemporary and classic plays.

The RSC is known for its high-quality productions, often featuring esteemed actors and directors. The company has played a significant role in preserving and promoting the legacy of Shakespearean drama, both in the UK and internationally. It’s style caters to a different audience than other midlands based theatres and really focuses on a core of good story telling. You can tell that everyone involved from the cast to the crew, the props and the costume departments and even the people who decorate the theatre are passionate about performance.

As the curtains rose, I was initially taken aback when a main character appeared on stage in a tracksuit, hinting at the possibility of a modern retelling. However, my surprise quickly turned into delight as familiar elements from the beloved children’s book began to weave seamlessly into the performance, including the whimsical language and the mention of the iconic lemon posset.

Despite the majority of the audience being composed of “grown-ups” – perhaps seeking a nostalgic escape from the reality of the real world, the production skillfully catered to a diverse audience. A woman seated next to my mom was visibly moved, shedding tears at certain poignant moments. For my son Arlo, the intricate plot and some of the more dates language may have sailed over his head, but the vibrant staging, dramatic effects, and captivating music kept him engaged. His eyes sparkled with wonder, especially during the water scene and with the appearance of an enchanting Phoenix and some skillfull puppetry.

Taking on the roles of the three children in the story are Callum Balmforth as Kay Harker, and Mae Munuo as the fearless Maria Jones, both of whom make their RSC debuts, and Jack Humphrey who returns to the RSC to play the far from fearless Peter Jones.

“Originally produced for Wilton’s Music Hall in 2017, Piers Torday’s reimagining of John Masefield’s much-loved children’s classic tells the story of orphaned schoolboy Kay Harker who finds himself the guardian of a small wooden box with powers beyond his wildest dreams. Caught up in a battle between two powerful magicians – Cole and Abner – Kay fights to save not just the people he loves, but also the future of Christmas itself…”

The performance engaged not just our senses but our entire beings. The RSC embraced the story wholeheartedly, transforming the entire theater into a festive wonderland. From the carefully crafted paper chains adorning the tree to the shadow box tucked into a wardrobe, the attention to detail was impeccable. Hidden treasures awaited around every corner, from a costume try-on station to a secret witches’ apothecary, and numerous nooks filled with magic.

Stepping into the RSC felt like stepping into the heart of the story itself. The theater exuded the spirit of December, with a radiant glow that transcended the stage and permeated every corner. The atmosphere was not merely a backdrop but an integral part of the enchantment.

The performance skillfully balanced nostalgia for those familiar with the story and accessibility for newcomers. While the central character’s initial appearance in a tracksuit hinted at a modern twist, it cleverly served as a gateway to a captivating blend of the classic and the contemporary. It was a nod to tradition while embracing the fluidity of storytelling. There was even a subtle nod to this summers Barbie blockbuster when our lead female Maria suggested we might see a movie featuring women as the main characters directed by women. A line which had me and some others around the auditorium chuckling.

As the narrative unfolded, I found myself immersed in the tale’s timeless themes—the triumph of good over evil and the enduring power of imagination. These elements, coupled with the festive backdrop, created a production that resonated with the holiday spirit. It became more than a performance; it became a celebration of the season, transporting us into a world where magic and wonder reign supreme.

The emotional resonance within the audience was palpable. The woman next to my mom, moved to tears, exemplified the profound impact the performance had on those seeking a nostalgic journey. It was a testament to the enduring emotional depth of “The Box of Delights” and its ability to stir the hearts of those who hold the story dear.

For Arlo, the experience was a sensory feast. The intricate staging, dramatic effects, and captivating music captivated his young imagination. While the complexity of the plot may have eluded him, the enchanting water scene and the artful puppetry held him spellbound. His eyes, filled with glistening fascination, mirrored the magic unfolding on stage.

The RSC’s commitment to the production extended beyond the stage. The theater itself became a character, adorned with festive charm. The meticulously crafted paper chains on the tree and the cleverly placed shadow boxes were not mere decorations but integral components of the immersive experience. The theater was transformed into a realm of wonder, inviting exploration and discovery.

Every detail, from the costume try-on station to the secret witches’ apothecary, contributed to the richness of the experience. The RSC didn’t just present a play; it created a fully realized world, inviting the audience to step beyond the confines of the traditional theater setting and into the enchanting universe of “The Box of Delights.”

In conclusion, the RSC’s rendition of “The Box of Delights” transcended the boundaries of a typical theatrical production. It became a magical journey, a celebration of the holiday spirit, and a testament to the enduring appeal of a beloved children’s story. Whether you find yourself enchanted by the familiarity of the tale or are discovering it for the first time, the RSC’s performance is a captivating experience—a box of delights waiting to be unwrapped and cherished during the festive season.

Last Updated on 6 months by Lavania Oluban

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