THEATRE REVIEW: Casting The Runes ★★★★

Casting The Runes

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Thursday October 9th 2014

Since they were last at The Everyman, Box Tale Soup Theatre have traveled the country with their previous show Northanger Abbey, their current show, Alice and Wonderland, and their new show, Casting The Runes, which has been received positively by critics around and has had its stint at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and has now stopped to entertain The Everyman for a few nights before the production gets back on the road.

Their new show, Casting the Runes, may sound familiar, as it is an adaption of the class MR James' mystery, and starring once are husband and wife duo Noel Byrne and Antonia Christophers, along with what makes all their productions special, their own handmade puppets.

The set, like their previous show, is very minimalistic. You walk in to find a coat stand with clothing on, suggesting multiple characters, folders, briefcases, a ukulele, and in the centre, a handmade, 6ft tall cardboard door, with a cardboard handle and windows down the front. What I liked abut the set on first glance was how much of it was handmade, and the usage of newspaper cuttings, or maybe it was pages from the original book by MR James', used on the scarf and tie on the coat stand, but also on the briefcases, a nice touch which catches the eye.

There are multiple characters in the production, with Noel taking the character of Edward Dunning, whilst Antonia shows her extensive talent with playing the bookshop owner, train assistant, and most importantly to the story, Rebecca Harrington, the daughter of John Harrington, who once gave a bad review to a Mr Karswell, who know haunts Edward after he too dismisses Karswell's work. The haunting comes in the form of a poster on the train, which instantly disappears, a piece of paper with Runes on, and a folder with a drawing in, were a mysterious figure in the background comes closer, every time Edward opens it up. 

The show has some serious moments of tension and horror, and the grand puppet of Karswell, which towers over the actors, can be found really terrifying, especially with the eyes, staring a the audience. Talking of the audience, you really feel like you are apart of the show, in the form of Dunning's students at a university lecture, and its a really nice use to engage with the us sitting watching the events unfold.

The production comes to a brilliant climax on the train, as they try to catch Mr Karswell, and return the runes in time, before Dunning takes a horrible death, like Rebecca's father had done years ago when Carsell haunted him, and Rebecca and Edward put in their most gripping performances in the show as a whole.

A mention should also go towards the beautiful singing voices of both the actors on stage, it's certainly wished though that you would be able to walk out of the performance and listen to their voices all night long.

Constantly engaging and gripping, Casting The Runes is a fantastic production brought by Box Tale Soup, and a book that I had never heard of, but had me totally engaged right the way throughout, and one of the best performances I have seen in a while.


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