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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Edinburgh Fringe Fest - Casting the Runes

With puppets, set and props made using recycled materials, Fringe stalwarts Box Tale Soup bring M.R. James’ chilling supernatural thriller back to life with their signature style of puppet-based literary adaptation. Casting the Runes pays homage to a writer considered the grandfather of British horror (inspiration for writers such as Susan Hill and Lovecraft), taking audiences on a ride through dark magic and intrigue, and further establishing the company as one of the go-to creators of classic Gothic theatre.

We spoke to Noel Byrne, Artistic Director of Box Tale Soup and co-writer/performer in the show, about heading up to Edinburgh Fringe with this chilling two-hander.


Tell us a bit about your show The show is called ‘Casting the Runes’, it’s a ghost story, a supernatural thriller about a sceptic who meets a mysterious stranger and is forced to re-evaluate his beliefs! It’s spooky, tense, and has a few good scares too! The show features some beautiful puppets, made by us, striking design and some fantastic original music. The script is based on the stories of M.R.James, who is generally considered the grandfather of British horror. The plot is mainly from his story of the same name, but we weave a few elements from his other tales in there too… What interested you about M.R. James? Although the style is certainly of its time, his work is still very popular today, and there’s a good reason for that. He’s cited as an inspiration by so many of the horror writers who came after him, from Lovecraft to Stephen King, so his influence runs right through the genre. When you read his stories, James’ gift for slowly, subtly building tension, creating this incredible atmosphere, is immediately clear. Like any great ghost story, you can imagine people listening, gathered around the fireside, silently drawing closer as the dread increases. Some of the images he conjures really stick with you - his stories can haunt you, and that gives them a lasting appeal. Why did you want to explore the supernatural thriller using puppetry? As a company, we love working with puppets, and puppetry features in all our work in some form. Puppets are magical, instantly transportive, with an otherworldly quality that engages an audience’s imagination immediately. I love the fact that they allow us to show and do things that would otherwise be impossible on stage.For a ghost story, I think they’re perfect. Used in the right way, puppets can seem unnerving, unnatural, and in a ghost story, where isolation is important, puppets can make an actor seem alone even when there are other characters onstage. I’m really proud of the puppets we’ve made for this show too, and I think our mysterious villain, Mr. Karswell, is pretty intimidating! What would you like the audience to take away from your show? First and foremost we hope they’re entertained and that they enjoy a great story, and maybe that they leave feeling a little unsettled! If our audience is just a little nervous when they turn their lights off at bedtime, then we’ve done our job! We also hope it encourages them to go and read M.R.James’ work. Most of our work is adaptation of classic literature, and we’re often told that we’ve inspired people to go and read the book (whether for the first time or the hundredth), that’s always lovely to hear! These stories endure because the themes are still relevant, and ‘Casting the Runes’ has a lot to say about arrogance and hubris, the dangers of not being open to other ideas… I think that’s pretty pertinent today! What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh Fringe? Our company, Box Tale Soup, has been coming to the Fringe since 2013, and I’ve been going a lot longer than that - my first visit was when I was sixteen, and I haven’t missed one since! So, we always really look forward to seeing all the friends we’ve made from all over the world. It’s also amazing to be immersed in all of the creativity, connect with few people, and see incredible shows all in one place. The Fringe is a really important part of our calendar, partly as a place for our company to share work, but also as a source of inspiration - even after all these years, I still leave full of renewed excitement and enthusiasm, which is quite a gift!

Casting the Runes is being performed at Pleasance Courtyard 2-27 August at 11.45am. Get your tickets and find out more here.

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