Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Audience Cheer for Charles Way Script

The Borrowers

Sherman Theatre , Sherman Theatre , December-02-16
The Borrowers by Sherman Theatre The emotional heart of the Sherman's now reliably excellent December show is the rapture of Kezrena James' Arrietty on experiencing her first spring. The design fills the Sherman stage with giant luxuriant flowers. Like any climax it has been well-engineered in preparation. Charles Way's adaptation creates with skill the first life of the young teenager. Her world is a flat-roofed home that leaks dust. Above live giants who are both intrinsically hostile but also providers of all that the family of three needs. A barely articulated family tale circulates of a cousin never seen again after the introduction of a cat.

To see Mary Norton's story of 1952 sixty years on is to see why it has endured. It has all the classic strengths of a story to last. Borges said that there were only two plots- a stranger enters town or a voyager embarks on a journey. “The Borrowers” encapsulates both, the first act seeing the arrival of Huw Blainey's engaging Boy, the second seeing the family, smoked out of their home, in a new land filled with unknown antagonists. Keiron Self's Pod has his giant half of a scissor for defence and Cait Davis her hatpin which comes into its own for a last confrontation- Kevin McCurdy is fight director. They also have an ally in Joseph Tweedale's Spiller with his regular catchphrase “ I got things to do.”

A good plot needs a good enemy and the role here is Harvey Verdi's Mrs Driver. Dom Coyote is musical director but also takes to the stage as the gypsy boy. Director Amy Leach's production has an exceptionally inventive and varied design. It would be a spoiler to reveal quite how Hayley Grindle creates the apposition between the two domains of different dimensions.

Two years ago Rachel O'Riordan, newly arrived, reached for a Dominic Cooke adaptation. In 2016 it is pretty much a production of Wales. Kezrena James is of Cardiff, Hayley Grindle a RWCMD student, sound designer Ian Barnard a Sherman regular. Charles Way is Welsh theatre's most experienced hand in adaptation. He does not over-do it but slips in the occasional line of reference. “Where's your father now?”Gone to sober up. In a pub in Penarth.”

“The Borrowers” ends with a visual joke which is both absurd and delightful. Unlike the picaresque “Arabian Knights” it is very much a play, its crafted structure including a first act climax of high drama. It has humour but not a string of jokes. The 10:30 in the morning audience comprises four adults who are not teachers. The rows of children keep silent attention until the close, rewarding the players with cheer upon cheer. Nice.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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