Capital E, Wellington

03/07/2010 - 17/07/2010

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

16/04/2011 - 21/04/2011

CAPITAL E, McKenzie Theatre, Wellington

16/07/2011 - 30/07/2011

Production Details

Devised by: Peter Wilson, Annie Forbes & Tim Denton
Director: Peter Wilson
Composer: Thomas Press

Capital E National Theatre for Children

in association with About Face Productions

Bernie moves into a house with all his belongings only to find that his tea turns into coffee, his flowers disappear and someone has been sleeping in his bed — when suddenly he comes face to face with the mysterious Elton. A witty tale of friendship unfolds as Bernie and Elton discover it’s much easier to enjoy a cup of tea together than fight over whose table setting is best. A sweet story packed with humour, tricks and clever puppetry perfect for the whole family.

“One of the treats of the production is to see how the boxes are transformed into household objects with a flick of the lid….” The Dominion Post

Age 3+
Sat 3 July, 2pm; Mon 5 – Sat 17 July, 10am & 11.30am (not Sunday)
Duration:  50 mins
Venue: Capital E McKenzie Theatre
Price: $12 per person. $44 for a group of four. $10.00 per person for groups of 10 or more. Under 2’s free.

Click here for booking information    

2011 season
Boxes plays at The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland,
from Saturday 16 – Thursday 21 April at 11am (no show Sunday).
Tickets are $12.50* for Adults and Children and are available
over the phone at 0800 BUY TICKETS,
online at or
in person at The Aotea Centre Box Office (*Booking fees apply) 

2011, Wellington
When: Sat 16 2pm, Mon 18– Sat 30 July 11am & 1pm (not Sundays) 
Venue: Capital E McKenzie Theatre
Price: $12 per person. $44 for a group of four. $10 per person for groups of 10 or more. Under two free.
Booking: You can now book online – click here or call us 04 913 3740

Boxes of Fun – Age 2+
After seeing the amazing uses Bernie & Elton have for their boxes, why not have a go yourself. Make a mini theatre with finger puppets? A gift box for someone special or a memory box to keep all your magical memories? The choice is yours! 
When: Mon 18 – Sat 30 July (except Sundays)
Time: 10.30am – 2.30pm 
Duration: As long as you like
Venue: Capital E Playground
Price: $2 per craft
No need to book  

Creative Team:

Performed by:  Tim Denton & Annie Forbes 

Lighting Design:  Jason Morphett

Puppet Design:  The late Beverley Campbell Jackson

Stage Manager and Operator:  Nigel Percy

Costumier:  Helen Moate

The eternal domestic struggle

Review by Brian Hotter 17th Jul 2011

I don’t have a huge amount of experience seeing children’s theatre and I am not proud to say that Boxes was the first time my 7 year old boy had been to any show period. However, for me it was a fitting start to what I hope will be, for him, a life long interest in the little black box called theatre.

Boxes begins with four square spotlights on the stage that hold both the mystery and warmth of what is about to come. Annie Forbes and Tim Denton have been creating puppet shows for over 30 years and the depth of this experience shows in their technique and abilities. 

The initial appearance of the first puppet is thrilling both in the building of suspense and the reveal itself. The puppeteer (Forbes) literally brings her puppet Bernie to life before our eyes as the puppet appears to climb out of a box and latch onto her. Forbes herself soon disappears under a black hood leaving only a young living puppet who communicates more through a nod and a gesture than can be said with a thousand words. Intricacies such as wiping her mouth after sculling a cup of tea only add to the magic. 

Forbes commented afterward that the beginning of the show was revamped to have her and Denton appear as human characters because in previous runs children thought the puppeteers who are dressed in black were robbers invading the character’s home. The way she manipulates the puppet so two becomes one is a joy to watch and I am glad it was not all left to the wizardry of puppetry. 

Denton’s male puppet Elton, appears in semi-darkness and the audience became moderately concerned when they exclaimed “It’s a puppet that’s alive”. A nod surely to his abilities as a puppet master. The tension in the young audience dissipated when the lights slowly gave way to Denton’s formidable body. 

The puppets themselves are simply created, pot bellied, short legged, white-faced, complete with white gloves (reminiscent of Mickey Mouse). The publicity photos of their physical appearance does not do them justice. My son thought he was going to see a play about egg people. They are warm, funny and lovable characters.  

The story, such as it is, is very simple. However, within the simplicity there is a real beauty. Slowly boxes appear before us (some alive some not) by the eternal optimist delivery man (Denton) – “Hey hey hey” – who actively responds to the young audiences’ questions and responses. “How’d you make it go on?” [a light], “It has a switch,”, Denton assures. Another little one shouts about the large fridge box: “It’s a toilet!” “A toilet?” Denton doubts. 

The audience jibes soon died down as the puppets quietly take over the stage building a home out of boxes, transforming them into a chair, bed and cooker. Then the play becomes the eternal domestic struggle, a kind of delicate War of the Roses with puppets – naturally with a happy ending. 

The piece is scored (by Thomas Press) and consequently the movements must be timed to a certain level and something is missed in this. The music itself that accompanies the show puts it in a younger age bracket for me – it has the touch of the Wiggles to it that could restrict the show to the under 5 bracket. I would rather have a solo live bass player or percussionist that enables performers, audience and musician to act as one. 

As for my 7 year old, he was transfixed through all of it, leaning forward at times to ensure he caught all the action. Walking away from the theatre, he wanted to know: “When are we going to go again?” “Next holidays”, I assured him. 

When we left Transformers 3D last week all he wanted to know was when he could go to Toyworld to buy some Lego. Now that says something about Denton and Forbes work and the immediacy of the magic of theatre compared with the emptiness of CGI. We will be back Capital E. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Charming ingenuity

Review by Nik Smythe 17th Apr 2011

To start with there’s simply an empty black stage, beset with appropriately square-shaped spotlights.

On wanders friendly smiling caretaker lady (Annie Forbes) for a last minute sweep-up before the first box arrives courtesy of chuckling, gently idiotic delivery man (Tim Denton). The caretaker wrestles with the temptation to look inside as urged to by the immediately engaged audience, finally succumbing when one next to me saliently asks, “Why do you not want to?” 

Inside is a peculiar pintsized large-headed fellow with a purple striped shirt and matching red velvet headpiece and shoes, who gleefully and inquisitively strides about. It takes some time for Annie to wrestle him back into the box. Then in the night he seems to escape again, only aren’t those spots on his sleeve? 

As an increasing quantity of boxes find their way onstage it becomes apparent that the stripy wee chap has posted himself with all his belongings to his new place of residence. Eliciting oohs and ahs from the crowd as each box or boxes are transformed into various items of furniture and appliances, he concludes by entering the tall bathroom box downstage with his toothbrush for his evening ablutions. 

Then the other guy appears and, appalled by all the striped things, systematically switches it all around to spots to match his own apparel. Inevitably the two eventually discover each other and proceed to do all in their power to oust their perceived enemy, until they learn how empty and lonely their quality of life has become with all the effort and sacrifice required to keep the other out… 

Fair bursting at the glued cardboard seams with slapstick routines and all manner of amusing homespun gadgetry, Boxes is a charming journey through an intriguing other world. The characters, both puppets and human, largely co­mmunicate through physical gestures and grunting alley-oop type noises, so the problem of the language barrier between Wellington and Auckland is eliminated.

The typical whinge about the Herald Theatre’s precipitous auditorium is particularly unfortunate for Boxes, as the waist-high puppets struggle to direct their expression up to the back half. Still, it manages to engage everyone more than adequately, just not quite as well as a closer-to-eye-level space would effect. 

While the show is ‘designed especially for 3 – 7 year olds’, my nearly-nine year old also enjoyed it very much (as did forty year-old me). However, rather than being transported into the illusion with the younger crowd he took great delight in deconstructing the entertaining formula, and wondering how much more there was to go before he could get back into the box construction and decoration space in the foyer. 

Certainly anyone with a love for creative puppetry will be charmed by the ingenuity of this simplistic fable about the complexity of co-existence – in fact it occurs to me the clear moral message of tolerance and cooperation may even be conveyed basically enough to be comprehended by the world’s heads of state. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Inspired creativity

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 16th Apr 2011

Two hours after Boxes, I’m watching 3 girls, aged 6, 7 and 8, turn my lounge into a mini-Auckland, using all the boxes, ribbon, tape, cardboard and crafty bits and pieces they can find. They have been totally motivated and enthused by this wee gem from Capital E National Theatre for Children in association with About Face Productions, presented by Time Out Theatre.

It took very little time for the girls to enter the world of puppets Bernie and Elton and follow their journey as they move into a new house, start building a home, face challenges and change along the way, then resolve their issues through friendship and compromise. 

Starting with a bare stage (a black box), the inspirational group of creative minds and two warm performer-puppeteers (who operate two engaging puppets); create magic with a stack of plain boxes, brown tape and a few simple yet highly effective theatrical devices.

The musical underlay (score composed by Thomas Press) is a masterpiece – the perfect complement to Peter Wilson’s well-paced direction, as the naughty playful boxes entertain us. Press chooses a refreshing fun mix of instruments, including xylophone, pizzicato strings, triangle, tambourine, a groovy walking bass line, cymbals, bells, whistles and other neat percussion tricks, to create a toe tapping sound track. Press also creates two distinctive musical textures for the two puppets’ different personalities. One is Pink Panther-esque, jazzy and sneaky; the other is more light-hearted and dinky. I look forward to hearing what Mr. Press does next.

Wilson’s shaping of the story is well articulated, climaxing in a ‘Berlin wall’ moment. It’s also perfectly pitched for the kids – my clan for the day frequently lean over and inform me about what’s going on, with excited whispers – “He’s building his house,” “They like different things,” “They’re sharing!” “I think they are being friends now.” “They are trying to help each other build a new home.”

Boxes is blessed with two skilled and engaging performer-puppeteers. Annie Forbes is warm, natural and open; while Tim Denton is goofy, lovable, and full of fantastic chuckles and infectious verbal exclamations like those of Maisey Mouse.

The inviting stack of recycled boxes and craft in the theatre’s foyer, adds a fabulous pre and post show activity for kids who are keen to create straight away.

Boxes is a perfect hour of interactive family fun for the holidays. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Editor April 20th, 2011

Cheers Bronwyn, thanks for the heads up - I have now changed the review to reflect the official credits: from Capital E National Theatre for Children in association with About Face Productions, presented by Time Out Theatre.

bronwyn bent April 20th, 2011

Thanks for coming along Kate and good to know the show inspired some home-made craft! Just a note to avoid any confusion and say that Time Out Theatre is merely the presenters of this show, which was created entirely by Capital E National Theatre for Children.

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Totally absorbing

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Jul 2010

With no dialogue to speak of, well-known puppeteers Annie Forbes and Tim Denton, under the direction of Peter Wilson, bring the characters of Bernie and Elton to the stage in a highly original and creative show that had the young members of the audience – as well as many of the parents – fascinated from start to finish.  

As the name of the show suggests, boxes are an integral part of the show and end up, in all shapes and sizes, strewn about the stage. They are then cleverly used by Bernie and Elton, the two puppets, to set up home.

When things don’t go according to plan, they use the boxes to set up a wall, but then find they need things from the other side of the wall to survive. Eventually, the wall comes down, Bernie and Elton shake hands and make up and they live happily ever after.

With the use of an incredibly evocative soundscape by Thomas Press, Forbes and Denton expertly manipulate the puppets about the stage, creating magical moments that the audience found totally absorbing.

Boxes also has many moments of humour.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Totally entrancing

Review by John Smythe 04th Jul 2010

After some five years a whole new group of youngsters is able to delight in the wordless magic to be found in Boxes. In essence, in revealing a tale of two puppets – Bernie and Elton – who emerge from their boxes to set up house only to find they are in the same space, the show distils the importance of accepting diversity.

But Bernie likes stripes and Elton like spots; Bernie likes tea and Elton likes coffee; Bernie likes flowers and Elton is allergic to them. Do they box themselves into limited lives that only allow what they like, or do they share their time and space with each other and have a richer existence? No prizes for guessing the outcome, bit it’s a dilemma we all face throughout our lives.

The ingenuity with which ordinary-looking cardboard boxes get utilised must surely inspire the creativity of young audience members. Plus there is magic in how some of the boxes move by themselves.

The greatest illusion, however, is in the animation of Bernie and Elton by puppeteers Annie Forbes and Tim Denton of About Face Productions (back briefly from Melbourne, where they now reside, preparatory to touring the show in Australia and returning for Festival engagements in NZ).

Made nearly 30 years ago in Western Australia by Beverly Campbell Jackson – to play servants in the WA Theatre Company’s Festival of Perth production of Doctor Faustus – their round white faced vestigial features are in the ‘larval’ tradition of Basle masks. The story of their lives since, in and out of boxes and into Boxes, is delightfully told in the programme.

Originally devised by Forbes and Denton with director Peter Wilson (to whom the puppets were bequeathed), Boxes has now been freshly mounted with a new beginning and brand new music composed by Thomas Press which, along with Jason Morphett’s lighting design, contributes enormously to the rhythm, mood, pace and feel of the story.

The production allows the audience to see how the puppetry is done then transports us into this illusory world through the magic of puppet theatre. In good hands – and these certainly are two very talented pairs of hands – the faces of Bernie and Elton are capable of a wide range of expressions and emotions.

Supported by the music, lighting and production team, Annie Forbes and Tim Denton – who also appear as the stage sweeper and box deliverer respectively – treat us to fifty minutes of totally entrancing theatre, from gentle repose to combatively active (toothbrushes at dusk!) that will transport some into a world of make-believe while fascinating others intent on discovering how it all works.

Welcome home, Tim and Annie. Every generation of 3 to 12 year-olds deserve to see this delightful show.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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