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A treasure chest of magical adventure


A Heart at Sea, Warwick Arts Centre, until May 26.

Is there anything more intriguing than a packing case?

Full of possibilities, the very image evokes pictures of undiscovered treasures in dusty attics or romantic Brief Encounter-esque rendezvous outside steam trains.

That’s something you don’t get with an Ikea blanket box.

Two-person theatre company Half a String clearly recognises the rich potential of a vintage case - its new production A Heart At Sea centres on a carved wooden chest.

Outwardly scarred and pitted, fastened with scores of brass locks, the case unfolds to create a series of ingenious backdrops, from raging ocean waves to an ice-bound island, against which the magical folk tale of a boy who embarks on a quest to find his discarded heart plays out.

The backdrop-in-a-chest sets the pace for the rest of the show, which unfolds in the manner of a suitcase unpacking layer by magical layer.

Fairy tales and cultural references are blended into a musical melting pot, with elements of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Snow Queen and The Tempest thrown into the mix.

Flat-capped and paper-bag skirted duo Peter Morton and Avi Simmons, who provided all the music with the help of a guitar, harmonica and guiro, added to the homespun hipster vibe, conjuring up memories of Music and Movement classes in parquet-floored school halls for those of us old enough to remember them.

But just when it appeared the show was diving fully into knit-your-own-muesli territory, Morton and Simmons brought it fully into the present with an amazingly inventive participatory section, recording and playing back a stormy sea soundscape created by the audience themselves clapping and clicking fingers.

My six-year-old was enthralled to hear her own efforts become part of the production. Okay, I was pretty impressed too. Overall, the blend of traditional theatre, visual arts and modern technology was what made this treasure chest of a show utterly captivating.

*aimed at children age 7 and above, performance lasts 50 mins.Last show at 2pm, Saturday May 26. Call Warwick Arts Centre box office on 024 7652 4524 for tickets

Winner!