The antiquated style of the source novel means that Box Tale Soup’s second new show on the Brighton Fringe takes a little getting into. But with their handmade puppets, quicksilver character changes and total control of tone, performers Noel Byrne and Antonia Christophers keep gently tugging at your hand until you’re pulled right into the story with them.
The pair have a knack for discovering dramatic trapdoors into a broad range of texts. This time, it’s GK Chesterton’s strange yet irresistibly life-affirming tale about a man who discovers the secret to a happy life.
Like the novel, the play begins with a charmed gust of wind, and there is a dance-like flow to Byrne and Christophers’ every movement. Dan Melrose’s folkish acoustic score enhances the sense of vibrancy and momentum.
The staging of the court case against the enigmatic hero is ingeniously simple. When Christophers plays different witnesses, their paper statements fold to furnish her with a tie, or a dog collar. Byrne further energises and differentiates the speeches by tapping out accompanying rhythms on a packing trunk.
This is not the most immediate of Box Tale Soup’s craftily compact productions, but in some ways that makes the spell their story casts all the more impressive.