The Grinning Man: deserves a permanent home in the West End
| By Lucy Beirne
Even though The Grinning Man is an adaptation of an old fairy tale, this British musical is an enchanting combination of new and old. As soon as you step into Trafalgar Studios, you are immersed in Victorian London and completely captivated until the final curtain. The preset of The Grinning Man’s hideous smile stretches over the audience, giving you an immediate flavour of what is to come and you are welcomed by musical performers, inviting you into the circus. To put it simply, as soon as you arrive, you are hooked.
The story of The Grinning Man follows Grinpayne, as he arrives in London in a travelling circus. The fantastical world, designed by Jon Bausor, is dark, eerie and infinitely clever which is only elevated with the introduction of the puppets. From Tony-Award winning director Tom Morris (War Horse) and puppeteers Gyre and Gimble (who also worked on War Horse), it comes as no surprise to say that the puppetry is breathtaking and utterly bewitching. This, combined with the haunting score, makes The Grinning Man a captivating show and every audience member was entranced.
Along with puppetry and a sublime score, this show is also bursting with clown, led by Julian Bleach in the role of Barkilphedro and the ensemble who ironically spend a large proportion of the show making the audience grin. It has been said by many, but Louis Maskell is outstanding in the title role and has a voice that you want to listen to on repeat. Cast by Anne Vosser, each actor is eerily addictive and multi-talented as they sing, dance, act, puppet and play several instruments with ease. Sanne den Besten is sublime in the role of Dea and is the perfect match for Maskell’s tragic Grinpayne.
Mark Anderson, Amanda Wilkin and Julie Atherton are the perfect trio of silly royal siblings and are thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
Penned by Carl Grose, The Grinning Man is as witty as it is heartbreaking and has more than one creepy twist that is delivered by a stellar cast. With a soaring score, clown, puppetry and heartache, The Grinning Man ticks every box and deserves a permanent home in the West End.