Album Review: The Grinning Man (2018 London Cast Live Recording)

I thoroughly enjoy getting to revisit the dark delights of new British musical The Grinning Man

“Laughter is the best medicine”

I loved The Grinning Man in both its incarnations – from Bristol’s Old Vic to the West End – and so I was most pleased to hear that it would be immortalised in vinyl, or whatever the digital equivalent is… A new British musical (book by Carl Grose, music by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, lyrics by all three plus Tom Morris) is always a thing to cherish, even when it is a queerly dark a thing as this. 

It’s a live recording which has its pros and cons. Personally, I like hearing the response of a live audience, particularly in response to the devilishly dark humour of Julian Bleach’s Barkilphedro. And the raw passion you hear in the voices of Louis Maskell and Sanne den Besten as tragic lovers Grinpayne and Dea feels all the more urgent for not having that studio polish to rub off some of the more emotional edges. Continue reading “Album Review: The Grinning Man (2018 London Cast Live Recording)”

Review: The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios

A great transfer for a great British musical, The Grinning Man impresses in this transfer to the Trafalgar Studios

“A tale so tragic it could only be true”

I’m no real fan of the Trafalgar Studios to be honest – its seating can be cramped, its angles severe, the toilet situation far from ideal, plus the coffee machine there takes an inordinate amount of time to produce a drink. But credit where it is due, director Tom Morris and designer Jon Bausor have done a fantastically inventive job in reconceiving the space to suit the anarchic energy of The Grinning Man, first seen in Bristol last year (and my favourite musical of the year, too).

A new British musical (book by Carl Grose, music by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, lyrics by all three plus Morris) based on a Victor Hugo novel, it’s a macabre tale to be sure, but one suffused with a real magic too. And Morris gives it an immediacy which scrubs away much of the distance that audiences can feel in the old Whitehall Theatre as cellists appear through walls, performers clamber into the stalls to sing, couples walk as if on air…

Continue reading “Review: The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios”

Review: The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic

“In you, I found all the pleasure and pain I could ever hope to feel”

All the best birthday celebrations go on for a while and Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Anniversary programme has been no exception, featuring productions from each of the four centuries of the theatre’s life. I took in the Lesley Manville opus Long Day’s Journey Into Night earlier in the year and returned to the South West with great anticipation for the 21st century strand of work, which is the macabre, and excellent, new musical The Grinning Man

Based on the Victor Hugo novel L’Homme Qui Rit (The Man Who Laughs), the show tells the dark tale of Grinpayne, a young man mutilated as a child who scrapes a living as part of a carnival troupe with his adopted family. Grinpayne keeps the lower part of his face covered but the highlight of the fair comes when he reveals his scarred ‘smile’, a sight that moves people in unpredictable ways, not least the royal family in whose intrigues Grinpayne finds himself increasingly embroiled. Continue reading “Review: The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic”

Finalists of 2015 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Emily Onsloe (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
Ewan Black (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Lydia White (Hills Road Sixth Form College)
Luke Farrugia (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama)
Charlotte Vaughan (Royal Academy of Music)
Leah West (ArtsEd)
Corey Jones (South Gloucestershire and Stroud College)
Erin Doherty (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Nick Shirm (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)
Amy Bridges (The MTA)
Grant McConvey (Guildford School of Acting)
Natalie Thorn (Performance Preparation Academy)

Host: Michael Xavier
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Elaine Paige, Laura Pitt Pulford, John Wilson and Jamie Lloyd

Finalists of 2012 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Matt Corner (ArtsEd, London)
Jennifer Greenwood (Bristol of Old Vic Theatre School)
Mark Donald (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Jason Broderick (Central School of Speech and Drama)
Ewan Black (Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Sec School)
Kris Olsen (winner) (Guildford School of Acting)
Bryan Parry (Italia Conti Academy)
Hatty Preston (LAMDA)
Matthew Cavendish (LAMDA)
Tia Renée Konsur (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts)
Charlotte Smith (Oxford School of Drama)
Emma Salvo (runner-up) (Royal Academy of Music)

Host: Claire Moore
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Laurie Sansom, David Shrubsole, Michael McCabe and Danielle Hope.