Theatre in Wales

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A colourful and enchanting adventure

At the Sherman

The Borrowers , Sherman Cymru , November 29, 2016
At the Sherman by The Borrowers If you are between the ages of 4 and ten years old or even between 40 and 100 get down to the Sherman Theatre for a huge chocolate box of fun and magic. You will meet Arrietty and you will love her. She’s the daughter in the Borrowers family, though she hasn’t done any ‘borrowing’ yet. She is given a very feisty and endearing performance by Kezrena James. Her very caring but worrying mother, Homily, given another totally captivating performance by Cait Davis. She says her husband Pod is the most talented of all the Borrowers. In fact he’s doing all the borrowing when we meet them in their home under the floor boards. Here Keiron Self gives a particularly fine and very believable performance that is one of the many delightful highlights of this picturesque production.

Even though it’s quite a big, old house Borrowers must be very small to live under the floorboards. We first meet Arrietty as a little peg doll but she soon grows and very soon is full sized as Haley Grindle’s very colourful and picture book set design switches to and from people size to Borrower size very fluently. Props like the peg bag cleverly expand to giant size as they are passed magically from humans to Borrowers down through the floorboards. There is also some compelling giant-sized projection. This makes Pod determined to leave the big house.

In this Charles Way’s pacey adaptation of Mary Norton’s celebrated series of mid-twentieth century novels he has compressed her stories to give us all a clear and happy tale that the young members of the audience can easily follow but not without much drama and excitement. On his last borrowing adventure Pod was ‘seen’ by a human being, now this could prove fatal as our borrowing family thought that had happened to their cousin, Eggletina who was ‘seen’, then ‘big’ family bought a cat and Eggletina was never seen again.

Down on one side of the stage there is an arrangement of musical instruments and under their director and composer Dom Coyote, who also plays the friendly Gypsy Boy, along with sound designer, Ian Barnard and James Whiteside’s effective lighting, wraps the whole show in atmospheric, and musical charm.

Dad, Pod is thinking that for their own safety, it’s time to move on. Not unusually, Arriettty is feeing a bit naughty and she decides to venture ‘upstairs’ on her own. She gets ‘seen’ by Boy but they become good friends. Huw Blainey’s Boy is very shy but they get on really well. He doubles this role as a member of the band, a lively, ukulele playing Cricket and Uncle Hendreary, Eggletina’s father, she’ s alright it seems, the cat didn’t get her! Like every member of this lively cast he shines in each one of these characters. He is getting fed up with Mrs. Driver, the sort of villain of the piece, again an excellent and very convincing performance from Harvey Virdi as she sashays around with her bottle of sherry trying to make Boy’s life a misery. At one point it looks that she has done enormous damage to our Borrower family but they survive. That’s the feel-good message in this story: things do work out ok in the end. She also gives us another nasty character as a sword-waving wasp.

Boy is aided by fellow musician Joseph Tweedale as the sturdy gardener Crampfurl, he is even more dynamic in his Borrower role, the dirty but good hearted ‘dreadful’ Spiller. Our borrowers are in the countryside now and we all delight in the very colourful, very large daffodils, strawberries and other magic foliage. Our friendly family find an old boot to live in. It’s a bit dirty but Homily soon cleans it up and they are living in style. And they send us all home with a very big smile

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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