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The Bookbinder review at Sweet Dukebox, Brighton – ‘charming and inventive’

Ralph McCubbin Howell in The Bookbinder at Sweet Dukebox, Brighton. Ralph McCubbin Howell in The Bookbinder at Sweet Dukebox, Brighton.

Books are instruments of wonder. They are more than just paper – they contain worlds. New Zealand theatre company Trick of the Light’s family-friendly storytelling show, The Bookbinder, revels in this – in the magic of print and ink.

The play takes the form of a fairy tale. A bookbinder’s apprentice is visited by a mysterious old lady and asked to mend a treasured book. His failure to do so with due care sends him plunging into a fantasy land and set on a quest to stitch up the Gap in the World.

While the writing deploys many familiar fairy tale tropes it lacks the clarity and purity of the real deal. The show’s real strength lies in the way the tale is presented, in designer Hannah Smith’s beautifully crafted pop-up dioramas, in the shadow-play and paper puppetry, in the ominous blooming of ink in water.

The production is adept at creating striking images using lamp shades and lightbulbs, and writer and performer Ralph McCubbin Howell has charisma and skill to spare as a storyteller. The piece as a whole casts a sizeable spell – it’s hugely charming and it holds the attention of audiences of all ages – but the effect is punctured, at least in part, by the slightly laboured and repetitious nature of the writing.

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Charming and inventive family-friendly story-telling theatre