Creators: The Dukes and The Big Tiny
It is the middle of the summer holidays and after five months of school closure parents may be at a loss for ways to entertain their children. The Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield has come to the rescue with its week-long Adventure Box created by The Dukes and The Big Tiny, combining games, puzzles and learning activities with online content as children are invited to become Charlotte Holmes and solve a variety of mysteries.
There are few things more exciting than receiving a giant parcel in the post and the Charlotte Holmes: Adventure Box is a package filled with even more exciting items. Inside are seven separate envelopes, each one to be opened on a different day across the week, along with wrapped Exhibits A-G which provide additional clues as you go along. All of this is supported by a vast portfolio of online dramatisations in which the characters respond to questioning, share their experiences and teach the audience how to make everything from bird feeders to buns.
The premise is brilliantly and carefully thought through as London evacuee Charlotte heads to Yorkshire’s Batley Hall where she encounters a cast of strange villagers and stately home occupants. Charlotte has sent you her secret diary and exercise book filled with ciphers and puzzles so before the climactic village fete on the final day, there are a series of activities to complete.
The creative team have done an amazing job in sewing together a unique, interactive piece of theatre. Much of the crime-solving fun comes later in the experience but this is as much a traditional teaching opportunity as a mystery game. There are independent but related dot-to-dot puzzles, crosswords and drawing tasks, along with a bird-spotting book, a poster filled of leaves to recognise in the garden and a Morris dancing tutorial. Children will learn card games, decipher codes, do jigsaws and store clues for later.
The online content is nicely staged with cartoon backdrops that create consistency across the videos performed by a small cast of uncredited actors who go for big characterisation to suit the tenor of the show and the age range of the material. The 1940s setting is particularly well designed across the visual and physical props, including recreated materials such as newspapers, old schoolbooks and traditional recipes.
All of this is supported by a password-protected parent area on the website with clues and answers to keep the experience going if a few of the outcomes prove elusive, and the Adventure Box encourages plenty of group activities including nature walks and cooking that make this really family friendly. Aimed at 7 to 12 year olds and with a £25 retail price, this is a brilliantly conceived and integrated experience whether you are the target market or (ahem) a tiny bit older.