Magic with light for ‘The Box of Delights’

“The Box of Delights” has opened at Wilton’s Music Hall. This new adaptation for stage, written by Piers Torday and directed by Justin Audibert calls for every theatrical trick in the book to be deployed in telling the adventure and the whole team worked tirelessly and creatively to achieve the resulting show, which has beed described as ‘stage magic’.

The video design resulted through keen collaboration with all other departments – movement (Simon Pittman), set (Tom Piper), puppetry (Samuel Wyer), lighting (Anna Watson) and sound (Ed Lewis) – to support the narrative. The more lavish and scenic video moments include growing a forest on stage, transforming sheets and cupboards into a crooked village, train station or snowy hillside. Then there are the integrations with puppetry: a phoenix rising from the ashes of Samuel Wyer’s golden bird; a projected shadow puppet sequence that also uses his gorgeous puppet designs.

As for the magic, Video is used to create a signature sparkling magic effect around the box that supports its power alongside its sonic signature. This effect also serves to light the cast as they travel with it and with the help of projection and light they are transported to a new setting in an instant in the next cue without a physical scene change. When Cole (Matthew Kelly) escapes through a painting, we lift the image off the physical painting and float it onto a cloth then transfer him into the painted scene using projection that is all the while seemingly controlled by the actor.

As ever, there is often more to the video than meets the untrained eye. Each and every scene contains a video treatment that blends seamlessly with lighting to transform Tom Piper’s intriguing and effective design of cupboards, dust sheets and ladders – a veritable springboard for children’s imagination – and to transport the action to new locations using texture, grime and shadows for an underground lair; subtle, dusty patterns on the fabric for a homely setting; looming shadowy ruins for a monastery and even bubbles for an underwater scene. There is also snow, fire and swirling fog that integrate with the movement.

I hope to be able to post more photographs in due course. For now, here is a comparison of two stage states to show how flexible the combination of design elements (set, lighting and video) proved to be. The first image is the show preset with all cupboards covered in dust sheets with lighting and video providing an enticing atmospheric and the second, a few scenes later where we use projection to transform the surfaces into the houses of a village.

BOD Witha and Without Preset and Journey.jpg

It’s one of the richest designs I have created this year and a pure joy to be part of the team but still merely one element of a show packed with ingenuity from everyone involved on and off stage. It has been extremely well received by audiences and critics alike. Here are just a few of the mentions for the video element:

endlessly watchable, transformative use of video by Nina Dunn WhatsOnStage 
Nina Dunn’s video design creates one particularly magical moment when a phoenix soars from the ashes Financial Times 
it is also the wonderful video designs by Nina Dunn that help to set the scene as well as capture the magic of what the Box of Delights is able to do
This adaptation for stage by Piers Torday is beautifully done, with a scattering of jokes and jibes that only the adults get. Puppets. Music. Video. Parachute quantities of fabric. Movement and poise. With light and images keeping your eye focused to avoid the slight of hand. TheSpyInTheStalls 

and there’s more praise for the show and all its magic here too: The Guardian★  The Stage ★★★★ 

But the best feedback of all has been gleaned sitting amongst the children and watching as they follow the story attentively, gasp at the magic, laugh at the japes and cheer on the heroes as well as in talking to older audience members who remember the TV series and are rapt by this new interpretation.

Production Video Engineer – Cameron Affleck
Animation assistant – Virginie Serneels
Video Assistant / Shadow Student – Santiago Martinez
Production Video Engineer – Cameron Affleck
Equipment suppliers – Stage Sound Services


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