Thursday, 1 August 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: The Borrowers - Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester.


It was a rainy day when I went to watch 'The Borrowers' at Chester's, Grosvenor Open Air Theatre, part of Chester Storyhouse's summer season; and I have to admit that the weather had dampened my spirits some what. I needn’t have worried however, as the performance was superb.

'The Borrowers' is a fabulous adventure based on the famous books by Mary Norton. The Borrowers, tiny people who live beneath the floorboards, are forced to leave their home and encounter many new dangers in the countryside. There's also the mysterious 'Spiller', and their long lost relatives to find. After many hardships, thrills and spills, the little family's story reaches a truly joyous conclusion. It has been updated and adapted by Bryony Lavery whose work is inherently theatrical and lets the audience know that they are in both this world and the world of the play. This was shown in the character of the “Human Bean Boy” shrinking the audience to borrower size and using a miniature theatre model to show the scale of the borrowers.

The director, Robert Shaw Cameron, had stated that it was a goal of his to introduce a new generation of readers and theatre-goers to the classic novel, as well as give back a little something to those who are familiar with it already. This goal was clearly achieved by updating the story to present time and actually setting the story in Grosvenor Park itself. The production used some expertly delivered theatrical devices to sprinkle a little magic on the performance.

Though little set was used throughout, thatwhicht was used was just magical. Giant Jammy Dodgers and huge gin and tonic cans set the scenes perfectly and again gave the scale of the world we were experiencing. The costumes were made up of famous household brands, for example Daenerys Drudge wore a Flash sink cleaner wrapper as her costume, which gave us an insight into her character, primarily where she lived.

Oliver Overmantel, played by Joesph Milson was my favourite character. A posh lush, he hammed-up the comedy at all times. From getting stuck in a can of gin and tonic to fighting off the advances of the northern pragmatist Ronnie Rainpipe, he delivered hilarious one-liners in a posh accent.

For the younger members of the audience the comedy was delivered in the rapping cricket. Mitesh Soni’s performance had the little ones laughing away and even some up dancing. The whole production had the younger audience members in mind, including a few times in the second half, with audience participation. The fact all music and sound effects were delivered by the actors on stage meant that my seven-year-old was always enthralled and involved.

The ensemble of actors did a fantastic job despite the many challenges they faced. During the first half a member of the audience fell ill and the performance had to be halted for a time. The actors handled this beautifully and resumed their performance with little disruption. The wind was quite ferocious at times which caused the overhead covering to bang loudly at quite a few moments, rain came at another point. However despite all these difficulties the ensemble carried on and brought a great energetic and fun performance.

'The Borrowers', I felt, was a fun and highly entertaining show. It has something for everyone, young or old. There are jokes that are clearly over the heads of the younger audience members and definitely there for us older ones, but it’s this mix of high brow and obvious jokes that makes this a fantastic show for not only the younger ones but for the adults too.

Reviewer - Francesca Eager
on - 31/7/19

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