Casting the Runes

Let’s see: an alchemist receives a bad book review and enacts his revenge by first driving the reviewer mad and then making him commit suicide. This does not look good for me. Luckily there are many positive things to say about this adaptation of the classic ghost story by M.R.James. It proves to be an entertaining yet fittingly chilly hour with Gothic undertones and some excellent acting by the proficient duo Noel Byrne and Antonia Christophers.

Casting the Runes tells the story of Professor Edward Dunning, master of all things supernatural.

Casting the Runes tells the story of Professor Edward Dunning, master of all things supernatural. He is approached by Rebecca Harrington, whose brother is killed in the aforementioned review incident. Soon Professor Dunning’s scepticism towards unworldly forces is put to the test as he too receives a note with runic lettering from the deranged alchemist. We get to witness Dunning’s slow ascent to madness as he begins to experience supernatural occurrences around him.

Noel Byrne gives a great performance as Professor Dunning while Antonia Christophers single-handedly tackles all the other parts. She proves to be a highly versatile and convincing actress. The intimate setting of The Burrow (Fishermen’s Vestry in St Paul’s Church) is perfect for this play together with a stone fireplace, heavy medieval doors, a huge wooden crucifix and old library items. In fact, the production could have made better use of these surroundings. I found their use of cheap cardboard doors and boxes a bit off-putting, especially since the door is such a central feature in the play: a symbol of the evil that lurks just outside of our vision.


I suppose no horror play can escape the comparison to the West End classic Woman in Black. Even after a decade from seeing it, that empty rocking chair still haunts me. Casting the Runes uses some of the same tricks to its advantage, such as the recurring lullaby, puppetry, well placed sound effects and clever visual effects. It does not reach the same level of intensity though, but then again the story is more a supernatural thriller than actual horror. All in all, everyone in the room seemed to enjoy the play – though they were clearly pleased to leave the creepy surroundings behind. I too made a hasty exit without any runes in my possession. As far as I know. 

Reviews by Johanna Makelainen

C ARTS | C venues | C digital

Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales

★★★★
C ARTS | C venues | C digital

Little Parts Hunts a Baby-Daddy

★★★★
Brighton Fringe Streaming

Rough Night

★★★
Komedia Studio

How Eva Von Schnippisch Saved Hollywood

★★★★
The Rotunda Theatre: Bubble

Please Hold

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

You're invited to the edge of your seat, into the darkest corners of the night. Award winning Box Tale Soup present their chilling new show. Our advice? Don't come alone... A new adaptation of M.R.James' classic supernatural thriller. “All my senses are undone, I shudder at the awful truth and the hot breath of the demon at my back.”

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets