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The Tin Drum review at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool – ‘glorious, anarchic storytelling’

The Tin Drum. Photo: Steve Tanner The Tin Drum. Photo: Steve Tanner
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Staging Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum seems virtually impossible, not least because its leading character Oskar Matzerath is, quite literally, kneehigh. Who better then to attempt the feat then but Kneehigh, with its secret weapon – puppeteer Sarah Wright.

Oskar, who went to extreme lengths to stop growing up at the age of three, is brought to life with astonishing vividness by Wright’s puppets and several of the cast, with Dom Coyote creating his inner adult as the storyteller.

The story begins at its end with Oskar casting his memory back to before his own birth. The picaresque story of Oskar’s journey through life is told at a breathtaking pace.

Charles Hazlewood’s eclectic, edgy score offers some astonishing vocal parts, not least for Oscar’s two possible fathers: Damon Duanno’s swashbuckling Jan, whose enormous range includes a dizzy falsetto, and Les Bubb’s pedestrian Alfred, with songs that more than hint at one of Carl Grose’s inspirations for the piece – David Bowie.

Meanwhile, Nandi Bhebhe is wonderful as Oscar’s complex mother, and Rina Fatania and Patrycja Kujawska are spectacularly funny as his potato-munching grandmother and the fire-starting Koljaiczek.

There are so many political angles to the story that you could write a thesis, but suffice to say that there’s a wealth of contemporary resonance made abundantly clear under Mike Shepherd’s direction.

Played out on a richly designed and lit stage, this is glorious, anarchic storytelling, with the ability to captivate as well as challenge its audience.

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Verdict
Kneehigh brings surreal reality to the strange world of Gunter Grass’ Oskar Matzerath
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