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Event Review: Box Tale Soup’s “Casting the Runes”

Near the end of reading week I had the pleasure of taking a quick train ride out to Bath to run around for the evening and take in a show.

Specifically, the dramatic and most fabulously done “Casting the Runes” as performed by the duo company Box Tale Soup.

To start, the play took place in the Mission Theatre in Bath which is a decent space with very friendly people who are very willing to help you with anything you need. However, my friend and I ended up having to stop and ask for directions once or twice after a slight misdirect from the main box office.

The theatre feels almost like it’s on the outskirts of town with a shot of a parking structure out the front of the theatre and surrounded by at least on hole in the wall where—after the show—a rather rowdy group of gentlemen were drinking their night away. I’m not sure if they were staying the night, but my friend and I definitely picked up our pace heading back into the main thoroughfare!

The actual show was amazing and definitely a thriller.

Official poster of Box Tale Soup's "Casting the Runes"

Official poster of Box Tale Soup’s “Casting the Runes”

“Casting the Runes” is a one act adaptation of M.R. James’ short story of the same name (with a few alterations and additions including some moments pulled from James’ other works). The story (as told by Box Tale Soup) of Edward Dunning, a scholar (and sceptic) of supernatural phenomenon, whose life is quickly turned upside down (in short) when he receives a strange strip of paper covered with runic lettering.

Whether or not you know James’ work, the show put on by Box Tale Soup tells this story in a truly thrilling  and (at times) terrifying way that holds you transfixed and unable to look away from the on stage (if only for fear of something sneaking up on you in the dark!).

Part of what makes Box Tale Soup so unique as a company and an experience in the brilliant dynamic between the two human actors as well as the truly terrifying and brilliantly thought out use of props and puppets (only one for this production!).

That’s right: PUPPETS!

In many instances, I know, when a person thinks of puppets they think of children’s toys and shows. Casting the Runes is one major exception. This puppet, playing the role of Mr. Karswell, is a speechless figure draped in a flowing black cloak and hat with a white almost featureless face save for piercing, glowing green eyes which sent a chill down my spine every time it made its presence known on stage. Both its use and design were flawless as were each costume and seen change set to a sung rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and I will never read that poen the same way again!).

The tropes set up is a two person team (a lovely married pair of actors) who travel around with all their props packed up into easily portable suitcases which allow them to do pop up shows pretty much anywhere and in any kind of space.

All in all, I highly recommend this spooky stage adaptation and will hopefully (if time and money allow!) be seeing this couple again later this year for their award winning adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abby” which I’ve been told is a must see.

–Taylor Gallagher

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