The Borrowers, Tobacco Factory, Bristol

THE new Bea Roberts version of Mary Norton’s fantasy children’s book The Borrowers is on stage at the Tobacco Factory in Bedmin­ster until 20th January.

To judge by the audience reaction on the press night, this is going to be a monster success, with its clever props, agile cast and live band. The writer’s Little Mermaid, at Bath’s egg last Christmas, won the UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People, so she knows about adapting famous stories for family audiences.

At the Tobacco Factory director Nik Partridge has surrounded himself with a talented cast – Jessica Hayles (unforgettable as The Duch­ess in BOV’s Snow Queen) is a charming Arrietty Clock, with Craig Edwards as father Pod and Peter Maurice as mother Homily.

The ever-entertaining Lucy Tuck is the arch baddie, the vacuum cleaner-wielding, Marigold-wearing, deodorant-spraying Mrs Driver.

Simon Armstrong plays Eddie as an older man, and his guitar skills have been incorporated as part of the band – keyboard player (and Young Eddie) David Ridley who also wrote the music, and Ellie Showering.

Christmas shows, whether they are traditional pantomimes, new versions of old stories or brand new modern tales, are all about entertaining all the family, and this one evi­dently succeeds.

It may seem like pouring Grinch sauce, but for me the narrative is cluttered by the narrator device, by Scouse vs Bris’l accents, by rather tuneless music and by a constant need to exploit ALL the talents of the actors.  The story is fluent, the message strong and the appeal timeless.  It doesn’t need this much embellishment, which turns it into what might be called “short scenes from The Borrowers.” Then what do I know?


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