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Theatre Review Christmas cracker full of delights

The Box of Delights
Wilton’s Music Hall
 

EVERY Christmas, the battered old VHS tape of the 1984 BBC production of The Box of Delights made an appearance in my family home and I can still vividly recall the opening credits to the TV show.

So the Wilton’s Music Hall Christmas seasonal offering, an adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel penned by award-winning children’s author Piers Torday, had a fair amount to live up to.

But this fun and energetic production, directed by Justin Audibert, makes clever use of puppetry and video to aid the storytelling, absolutely lives up to expectations. The fantastic venue adds an extra magical layer to proceedings.

The Box of Delights tells the story of Kay Harker, whose trip to his guardian’s for Christmas takes a fantastical turn when he gets embroiled in the ongoing battle between Cole Hawlings, keeper of the magical box, and Abner Brown, whose evil machinations are ably assisted Sylvia Pouncer.

To keep the box out of Brown’s hands, Cole Hawkins entrusts it to Kay who, with the help of friends Mariah and Peter, tries to keep it safe.

The source material means there’s a slight danger of this being a rather white, middle-class story, but that's mitigated by the casting.

All the actors perform with panache, with Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle both doing a fabulous job.

Kelly plays both Hawkins and Brown, while Gabrielle doubles as Pouncer and Kay’s guardian, Caroline Louisa, and there’s also a wonderfully energetic performance from Safiyya Ingar as Kay’s friend Mariah, the swaggering schoolgirl with an excellent knowledge of firearms.

The plot is perhaps a little complicated for the very young, but the production had the children in the audience spellbound and there’s some entertaining doubles entendres for adults.

While some of the movement sequences slightly lack edge at times, this is a great Christmas show. It’s got more story than a pantomime and bucketloads of charm, magic and energy.

Runs until January 6, box office: wiltons.org.uk

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