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)”
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”
“First you must come with me and see what I’ve found”
The producers of The Grinning Man must have been really really happy when Hamilton announced that it was delaying its opening night so that it would fall into the same week as theirs. Fortunately, The Grinning Man gets in first and has a few days’ grace and it is also taking a little inspiration from the hit Broadway show in the way it is presenting its score. So where Lin-Manuel Miranda called in mates like Alicia Keys, Usher, Kelly Clarkson and The Roots for The Hamilton Mixtape, The Grinning Man has released a set of clips of West End stars and celebrities singing their own versions of some of the songs from the show.
It’s an intriguing move, especially as Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler’s score is not yet widely known, but it is also a fascinating one as the likes of Matt Lucas and Hannah Waddingham, Kelsey Grammer and Louise Dearman put their own stamp on some of the best tunes whilst never straying too far from the gothic darkness of the source material. Continue reading “Hear some of the songs from The Grinning Man, done rather differently”
“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”
“Water is a sociable molecule, it loves to mingle”
First seen at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2007, Filter and David Farr’s collaborative effort Water has been revived and is playing for a month at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. Water pulls together two main stories, the first featuring a pair of half-brothers struggling to deal with the legacy of their deceased father, an early proponent of climate change theory, and their different perceptions of him before and after he accepted corporate money to silence his views, and the second about a young political adviser trying to push through a binding climate change agreement at a major international summit in the face of her own splintering relationship with her deep cave diving boyfriend. And the show really is about these human dramas rather than environmental issues per se, the connection to water that they all have is incidental rather than integral.
Using their trademark style of laying much of the theatrical process bare, the three actors, sound technician and stage team ‘create’ in front of us and with this deceptively simple approach, moments of stark beauty are achieved: the silhouetted squash game and the striking, wordless penultimate scene being two particular standouts. The way in the soundscape is created by everyone in the most varied of manners and then further developed by Tim Phillips is brilliantly executed, finding connections in the most disparate of things. Continue reading “Review: Water, Filter at Tricycle Theatre”