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This macabre tale of a young man with a mutilated mouth really isn’t for kids despite the puppets involved. Based on Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel “The Man Who Laughs”, this imaginative adaptation by a quartet of writers (including director Tom Morris – one of the creative talents behind “War Horse”) adds a batch of songs - from the playful to the plaintive - in a convoluted plot which incorporates a shipwreck, a travelling freak show, a love story and a self-indulgent royal family ruling over a miserable city.

The theatre has been decked out like a fairground, and the stage is a huge gaping mouth framing another within, mimicking the lurid gash which disfigures Grinpayne’s face, pulling his features into a perpetual grin. Taken in as a boy, along with blind baby girl Dea (Sanne den Besten), by puppeteer and druggist Ursus (Sean Kingsley) he grows up to become the main money-making attraction, catching the eye of incestuous royals Prince Dirry-Moir (Mark Anderson) and his rampant sister, Princess Josiana. But what Grinpayne desperately wants to know is the truth behind the vicious laceration which forces him to hide his face behind a bloody bandage.

The production can occasionally be slightly confusing but - with Julian Bleach’s ghoulish court clown Barkilphedro plus a marvellous, larger-than-life-size wolf puppet -   this inventive (and definitely dark) gothic novelty proves a gratifyingly unusual way to start the new year.

Trafalgar Studios

Whitehall, SW1A 2DY

Tube: Charing Cross

 till 17th February 2018    

£22.50 - £95.00


Theatre Review: The Grinning Man
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