A Box of Delights

Christmas traditions… opening advent calendars… the arrival of a certain big red lorry… singing carols… decorating the tree… writing cards… wrapping presents… mulled wine, mince pies and egg nog… All signal that Christmas is coming – and with the return of their annual Christmas show after an enforced hiatus, Maskers Theatre Company are adding to these seasonal festivities.

A Box of Delights is an assortment of Christmas fun and nostalgia: music, poems and stories, with an interval of mulled wine and mince pies brought to your candle-lit table, and the promise of a “relaxed and gentle evening’s entertainment”.

The collection of instantly recognisable, less familiar and originally devised pieces is mostly read from folders, which can be a tricky skill to master and keep the audience engaged. Although some of the cast are more accomplished with this performance style than others, all had their moments to shine, while the interaction between the cast and audience became a big part of the entertainment!

Eminent story-teller, Philip de Grouchy, had the audience eating out of his hands, particularly with his rendition of Prinderella & The Cince in a masterclass of diction, pace and Spoonerisms.

Jo Iacovou and Jackie Foyle prove with their individual monologues how much skill is needed to ‘read’ performances will flair and aplomb. Their vocal quality helps the words leap off the page to create crystal clear images in your imagination and are very reminiscent of good quality audio/radio dramas.

I love a good ghost story – and Dark Christmas (narrated here in three parts by Anna Hussey) worked a treat. While the audience were laughing, pre-empting jokes (or inserting their own, particularly with Jane Russell after the interval!) and joining in with the more humorous stories and poems, you could hear a pin drop for most of the ghost story (broken only by a gasp, sharp intake of breath or nervous giggle at the proper moments).

As with any sweet or savoury assortments, there’s something for everyone in this collection, including Sue Dashper’s touch of blackmail, Heather Callaway’s poetry, David Jobson unravelling the mysteries behind Christmas customs, and Alan Watson’s explanation of why the inn keeper isn’t part of the Nativity scene. There’s even a pantomime to enjoy! Although it may not be as you know it, it’s definitely more than “Alright…” (you have to be there!).

If you’re expecting innovative, edgy, provocative theatre, you won’t find it in this production. What you will find is a very enjoyable, amiable piece of festive frivolity, supplying some much-needed Christmas cheer. Set in the intimate Studio venue, with cabaret-style tables, a minimalist living room set, atmospheric lighting and some well-placed sound effects, it’s a lovely little piece of escapism on a cold winter’s evening.

Indulge yourself in A Box of Delights until Saturday 11 December (7.30pm each evening). Directors Jill Desborough and Brian Stansbridge have produced a show that supplies just what it says on the box – a delightful evening’s assorted entertainment! Enjoy!