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The Knight of the Box Near The Station
Published on Sunday, 18 August 2013

3 stars

Laughing Horse @ Espionage (venue website)
2-25 Aug, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Reviewed by Lizzie Bell

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

"Are you sitting comfortably?" Probably not, the chairs aren't great... but grab one and settle down for a delightful story, to grip and soften any hard modern heart. Describing itself as a modern fairy tale, The Knight of the Box Near the Station follows Sam the cynical commuter as he breaks the monotony of his life, and finds magic in the strangest of places. After all, "nothing says adventure like pain au chocolat"!

Seated on a stool, reading from a big leather book, Dan Cardwell invites you to remember story time - listening to fairytales and dreaming of adventures. But this isn't a child's tale; this is a tale of Sam, whose dull commute, constant lateness and cowardly cynicism will in parts resonate with many of us. It is about a day when Sam breaks from his routine, meets the leader of the Knights of the Eighth Octave and (somewhat unwillingly) get swept into a quest, to find his voice and rescue his love from the Evil Lord Something-or-other.

It is a very well-written story, so full of imagery I almost want to draw this review rather than write it: bulldozer dragons, a wooden sword fight, and "a milkshake so good it will make your willie tingle". The show is not just Dan reading a story; there are animations and voice-overs that each tell their own part of the tale, multiple threads that come together as the show progresses. These extra bits were cleverly done, giving him time to sip some water while keeping our attention, as well as providing an elegant way to round out the tale. Some of them felt too long though, especially because it was not until near the end of the show that it became clear they were part of the same story.

It’s surprisingly difficult to read aloud well, particularly when you also gesture and look at your audience, and Dan did stutter and lose his place at times. Although he recovered from this, it undoubtedly disrupted the flow of the story. It would be a shame to lose the energy and interaction from these very lively parts, but he does need to keep the story going to make sure the audience stays engaged. Perhaps it’s as simple as printing the words larger, or maybe he needs to memorise the tale - but somehow he has to eliminate the awkward pauses and repetitions. On the other hand, I was impressed by how good Dan was at coping with and catching up the inevitable latecomers.

It may not start "Once upon a time...", and the boundaries between good and bad are not as clear-cut, but the magic and the message of a good fairy tale are all here. Despite the glitches in the delivery, it was an enjoyable show, and it’s worth taking time out of your schedule to relax and escape into this tale. The Knight of the Box Near the Station will leave you feeling a little more of the magic in the world.

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