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