My Wonderful Snapchat photography skills here (it’s okay, they said I could take pictures before the show started)
Bring transferred from Bristol old Vic, The Grinning Man is now running at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, and I highly recommend you grab yourself some tickets and experience this new and powerful show.
After seeing shows such as Avenue Q, and War Horse and being completely blown away by how much empathy and understanding I can have towards a Puppet, when my friends told me about a new show called “The Grinning Man” that featured puppets, I was more than excited and willing to give this show a chance! Then, I saw that Tom Morris (Director for War Horse) was directing it, I think my heart stopped a little and I knew it was going to be a show I wouldn’t forget. Doesn’t matter that it’s caused a few nightmares, it’s still made a strong impression.
The setting is like something from American Horror Story, Freak Show – walking into a creepy, spine-tingling circus tent, with dim lights and decaying bunting hanging from the walls. Creating such a mysterious tone, my friends and I were nervous for actors or puppets to come from between the set and seats and we had our guard up. I was sat next to a raised stage in the middle, where the actors came into the audience, and took part as audience members, which is always a great touch.
The first actor/Jester to appear opens the piece as a story, allowing the audience to know they are being taken on a journey, obviously about “The Grinning Man”, I personally felt like I was a child again with my mother and father acting out the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales in my front room and all that excitement was brought back.
The Story-line is such a thought-provoking and saddening one, and you so desperately want the main characters to succeed, but you’re enjoying their misery at the same time, which causes you to think about your own inner conflicts and what a horrible person you are inside. I loved that it toyed with my emotions from star to finish.
The acting, dancing and singing is to an extremely high standard and everyone involved should be very proud of themselves because this is a high-emotion, non-stop piece. The songs have a varied range, they are soft, memorable and help drive the story along. There is a lot of comedy in this piece, so it is not all doom and gloom, and there is a good balance between the funny and the sorrow, so the audience can find time to breathe and reflect. In each character there is a trait, a flaw, that someone in the audience can identify with, whether its greed, desire, power, protection, love, each character heightens one of these traits and exaggerates them, which I thought was really clever.
I’m not going to lie, I did expect more puppets in the piece, but that doesn’t take away anything from the fantastic story-line and story-telling in this theatrical experience, and I do question if they added more puppets, if it would work, or if it would distract and possibly hinder the piece. I don’t know, but the puppets they had really opened my imagination and I am so impressed with what I saw.
The Puppets of the children and the Wolf, I found I had strong empathy with, and I wanted to protect them, which is credit to the actors behind them, making them move and speak so realistically, that I forgot, at times, that they were puppets. There is a certain vulnerability about the puppets which makes them fascinating to watch.
At the end, I felt fulfilled and complete, which I loved. This is a fantastic show, that you shouldn’t miss. I would happily go see it again, for every section, every line, every movement and moment is so well presented, I was happy to walk the freezing streets of London to sleep on my friends hard-rock sofa bed.
Happy reading, my lovelies.