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When the Wolves were Running

Peter (Jack Humphrey), Kay (Callum Balmforth) and Maria (Mae Munuo) Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC.

The Box of delights, by Piers Torday based on the novel by John Masefield. At The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, running until Sunday 7 January 2024. Directed by Justin Audibert, designed by Tom Piper.

Take a young boy and his two friends, a wise magician, an evil magician and an ancient box full of wondrous magical things and you have the most marvellous adventure between good and evil – with Christmas at the very heart of what’s at stake. The fight is on to save Christmas or see it banished forever.

This classic children’s novel adapted brilliantly for the stage sees orphaned schoolboy Kay Harker (Callum Balmforth) home for Christmas from his boarding school. On the train journey he encounters both the good magician Cole Hawlings (Stephen Boxer) and his dog (Barney) and the evil magician Abner Brown (Richard Lynch) and his two ‘wolves’ Joe (Nana Amoo-Gottfried ) and Charles (Tom Kanji). Aiding those villains is the greedy ‘witch’ Sylvia Daisy Pouncer (played by Claire Price last night). The role is shared between Claire and Nia Gwynne.

The good magician Cole Hawkins ( Stephen Boxer) Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC.

Kay is entrusted with keeping safe a magical box that has powers beyond his wildest dreams. But the evil magician and his team of jewel thieves is hot on his trail.

At home Kay is joined by friends Maria Jones (Mae Munuo) who is always ready to do battle with swords and pistols; and Peter Jones (Jack Humphrey) a gentle sweet lad who wants no more excitement than a box of chocolate mint creams and a book. Both play their parts brilliantly as they too become involved in all manner of adventures that takes them from fantasy worlds to deep beneath the waves. The youngsters find themselves soaring above the clouds or diving under water, meeting mythical creatures such as Herne the Hunter (Janet Etuk), a bewitched talking head (Molly Roberts) as well as villains and thieves.

Herne the Hunter (Janet Etuk) Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC.

The play is an absolute journey into other worlds and other times, where almost anything is possible. The team behind the scenes have created the most marvellous scenery and special effects, with flying cars, thundering steam trains, epic floods, a phoenix that steals your heart, and magical Christmas scenes with Christmas carols sung and played beautifully. A special mention also to Barney the dog’s handler, puppeteer Rhiannon Skerritt and the rat (Tom Chapman).

Barney the dog and puppeteer Rhiannan Skerritt. Manuel Harlan (c) RSC.

Wonderful acting, action and comedy by every single one of the cast, each one was a pleasure to watch. So, if it’s a joyful, feel good family adventure you’re after this Christmas, The Box of Delights is the play for you.

For further details and tickets call the Box Office on 01789 331111 or go to:



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