Casting the Runes

Box Tale Soup
Pleasance Courtyard

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Casting the Runes

Theatrical horror is a difficult beast to master, especially at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Too easily, the constraints of a stage performance can pull the macabre into mundanity and the trappings of fear into farce. It requires thought, ingenuity, and subtlety. All aspects that are keenly true when looking at the classic stories of M R James, the renowned academic and scribe of horrific calamities falling upon bookish academics around the turn of the 20th century.

Box Tale Soup has taken the classic story Casting the Runes and brought it to the stage with ingenious simplicity and decisively smart construction. The tale concerns the strange events surrounding the academics Dunning (Noel Byrne) and Harrington (Antonia Christophers), a pair inextricably caught in a deadly web of occult horror at the hands of the mysterious Mr. Karswell.

On the near-blackout stage, the company makes brilliant use of minimal but ingeniously adaptable staging to transform the space from street, to library, to house, to railway carriage, winding a story with charm and efficiency and some brilliant use of props and puppetry to fill out the remaining cast members and construct a performance that is both captivatingly fun and genuinely chilling to watch. In part, this is down to the absolute excellence of execution, deftness of performance and genuinely engaging chemistry between Byrne and Christophers, who play off each other wonderfully, bickering and consoling each other by turns as the events spiral into more and more frantic terror.

It’s an unreserved recommendation that will leave you quivering in your shoes, absolutely satisfied and yet very much relieved to step back out into the dubiously sunny streets of August Edinburgh.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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