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The Box of Delights by John Masefield, adapted by John Peacock

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BBC 7, 13-20 December 2008
 
Like The Wind in the Willows, John Masefield's The Box of Delights is a picaresque children's story in which Kay Harker (Benjamin Guy) is given a magic box, enabling him to travel back and forth in time. It is given to him by Cole Hawkings, a Punch and Judy man (Lionel Jeffries), who mysteriously reappears throughout the adaptation, both participating and commenting on the action.  First published in 1935, the book shows how a child's imagination runs wild, free of the limitations associated with adulthood. At the same time Masefield suggests that this unfettered world of the imagination can also be dangerous, which explains why Kay is perpetually pursued by a veritable clutch of bad guys, led by Donald Sinden in full vocal cry. The Box of Delights is a modern morality-play, underlining the importance of truth and good fellowship in a chaotic world conjured up by the box.
 
As in his production of The Wind in the Willows, David Blount used star casting to suggest that Kay would never come to any harm, despite the ordeals he has to ensure. How could he in a world peopled by pantomime villains like Sinden and his sidekick Celia (Celia Imrie) who cackled evilly at any and every possible opportunity? Even if Kay were in danger, he could always rely on Cole's reassuring presence, as vocalized by Jeffries. While listening to radio adaptations, one should think of the characters first and the actors second, but it's difficult, particularly when well-known actors are involved.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame