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The Borrowers review at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff – ‘small but perfectly formed’

In a theatre season characterised by flash and razzamatazz, the Sherman Theatre is presenting a stage adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers.

The Clock family are three fairy-sized people living under floorboards. They don’t ‘steal’ they only “borrow” – a fact brought wonderfully to life through Hayley Grindle’s imaginative over-sized set design. Thimbles become cooking cauldrons, a tomato turns into a Space Hopper and a cotton reel functions as a stool.

Norton wrote the first novel not long after the end of the Second World War and director Amy Leach emphasises timely themes of displaced people, including one distressing scene where the housekeeper gives the order to “smoke them out”.

Keiron Self as the father, Pod, is robustly pragmatic in his counsel against hate and a counterweight against the emotional outbursts of Homily, played by Cait Davis. Following her appearance in Sally Cookson’s Sleeping Beauty at the Bristol Old Vic, Kezrena James proves again what an infectiously enthusiastic performer she is in roles of this type.

Harvey Virdi adds a more traditional element of Christmas theatre as the tipsy, cackling villain. But on the whole this is a deliberately low-key and poignant production, along the lines of Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman, with moments of melancholy underscored by Dom Coyote’s gentle compositions.

In many ways this production breaks the rules of how to entertain children, yet despite its lack of showy theatricals, The Borrowers keeps an audience of youngsters noticeably engaged throughout. It’s a quieter take on Christmas entertainment but, like the Welsh daffodils lining the stage, it’s curiously beautiful.

Verdict
Small-scale but perfectly-formed festive family show

Production Information

Production
The Borrowers
Venue
Sherman Theatre
City
Cardiff
Starts
November 25, 2016
Ends
December 31, 2016
Press night
November 29, 2016
Authors
Mary Norton
Adaptation
Charles Way
Director
Amy Leach
Musical director
Dom Coyote
Set
Hayley Grindle
Lighting
James Whiteside
Sound
Ian Barnard
Technical
Kevin McCurdy (fight director)
Cast includes
Huw Blainey, Cait Davis, Kezrena James, Keiron Self, Joseph Tweedale, Harvey Virdi, Dom Coyote
Casting
Kay Magson
Producer
Sherman Theatre
Running time
2hrs