Review: The Borrowers @ The Sherman Theatre

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Directed by Amy Leach and adapted by Charles Way, The Borrowers is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s novel about the pocket-sized Clock family living beneath the floorboards of a Victorian house. This coming-of-age and classic children’s tale is The Sherman Theatre’s festive offering this year.

The family survives by “borrowing” items from the “human beans” and live a sheltered life in constant fear of being discovered. It is Arrietty’s (Kezrena James) thirst for adventure and eagerness to see above the floorboards that sets the plot in motion. She shadows her father Pod (Keiron Self), to the dismay of her mum, Homily (Cait Davis), on a borrowing scavenge, when she meets the Boy (Huw Blainey) and forms a most unlikely friendship. As the villainous Mrs. Driver (Harvey Virdi) catches the Boy speaking to the borrowers one evening, she smokes them out and the family must flee and learn to survive outdoors.

James gives a stand out performance and her enthusiasm is infectious. She and the rest of the cast interact with the set perfectly and their movements are fluid and natural – a true credit to Leach for her direction of the actors.

The addition of the band on stage is superb and truly compliments all aspects of the performance. The music was specifically written and composed by Dom Coyote and it shows as each sequence is accompanied by a fitting piece of music. The music enhances the atmospheres and tones of the performance; the music is dark and feels heavy whilst the borrowers occupy their claustrophobic home under the floorboards, but then transitions to a lighter sound with more vocals, which is representative of Arrietty’s feelings of enjoying the outdoors. There are also some beautifully arranged vocal and instrumental harmonies to be enjoyed.

Split level staging is used to portray the above and below floorboard scenes and is very simple but effective. Hayley Grindle has beautifully crafted the set and staging – the props look fantastic and really aid in the difficult task of portraying the proportion of size between the borrowers and human beans. For example, Homily’s stove is a thimble, a letter lines the wall of their home, Arrietty uses a tomato as a space hopper and Pod’s weapon of choice is half a scissors. However, more use could have been made of the projections; the few scenes that incorporated it were ineffective and appeared very jejune.

Although Norton’s novel was originally published in 1952, its themes and tropes are still, and perhaps more so, applicable to today’s society. The production tackles issues of acceptance and fear of the unknown, primarily through the youthful heroine Arrietty educating her sheltered parents. Similarly, it is Boy who cares for the borrowers, whilst the villainous Mrs. Driver’s and Crampfurl’s (Joseph Tweedale), the housekeeper and gardener, first instinct is to kill them.

The production is a heart-warming festive treat that appeals to adults and children alike. With visually pleasing staging, beautifully composed accompanying music and great performances, the production has successfully brought to life the children’s classic to the stage of The Sherman Theatre.

The Borrowers runs at The Sherman Theatre until December 31st. Book your tickets here: http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/children/the-borrowers/

*Images: Kirsten McTernan

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