“The Mysterious Mystery of The Jewellery Stealing Cat” with Play in a Box by the National Theatre Bookshop

I’m no stranger to drama. My eldest daughter, who’s 7 going on 16, is nothing short of a chatterbox and can throw a strop to rival Mariah Carey presented with tap water. Some might describe her as impossible, I like to call it ‘theatrical.’

And so when we were asked if we’d like to try the “Play in a Box” from the National Theatre Bookshop, the answer was a resounding yes.

With school being closed for the day recently due to heavy snowfall and the kids some grippy plimsolls away from climbing the walls, it was the perfect chance to try out our Play in a Box.

The box contains tons of ideas for plot twists, characters, settings and there are programmes and tickets for the kids to fill in. It also comes with a vividly colourful and wonderfully imaginative Stagecraft book that guides you through the process of putting on a stage show, from set and costume ideas to tips on script writing and directing.

What I loved most about the play in a box is that imagination takes centre stage (see what I did there?!). The emphasis is on the children coming up with their own ideas, making up a plot, creating characters, designing a set etc. It can be as complicated or as simple as you make it.

With that, we took to creating and performing our own play. The kids went off to come up with a story and ‘The Mysterious Mystery of The Jewellery Stealing Cat’ was born.

The stage was set. We used ironing baskets and big sofa cushions to create imaginary buildings and skyscrapers and a navy bed sheet completed our inner city nighttime scene.

My son played the part of Kitty the Cat Burglar who had a penchant for fine plastic jewellery and notebooks. We used paper, felt tips and leftover gift ribbon to make a mask fit for any self-respecting thief and some leather gloves were the perfect aide in making sure our criminal mastermind left not so much as a fingerprint. A pair of black tights made a great tail and the M&S logo on a shopping bag was covered with a ‘Loot!’ sign for (a rather middle-class) Kitty to stash his stolen treasures in.

Hot on the case of Kitty the Cat Burglar was Detective Gary Gumshoe, played by my daughter. She came up with her costume, using a big coat with upturned collars and sunglasses to help her be inconspicuous as she searched for clues. A sleuth-style moustache was added with face paint for maximum effect.

The kids came up with their own story line and performed the play for their grandparents that afternoon. We were all treated to cups of water and Haribo during the interval, just what any self-respecting theatre-goer wants.

Play in a Box brought out the imagination of my kids more than any iPad or TV show ever could. They picked up skills in the process and have already started coming up with ideas for their next show, which will apparently be set in the jungle and feature a magician and pop star (we’ll deal with the ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here!’ copyright infringement issue at a later date).

My kids loved Play in a Box. It is fab for a rainy day and my top tip is to open it up on a day where you’ve got lots of time to let the kids come up with ideas and build their set without being rushed.

Left to their own ideas, the imaginative capabilities of a child are truly astounding. Thank you National Theatre Bookshop for giving us a lovely afternoon of creativity, imagination and brilliant fun.

Play in a Box is out now and available for £12.99 from the National Theatre’s online shop.


The Play in a Box was sent to us in exchange for an honest review of the product. All views herein are entirely my own.


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