by Mary Norton
Adapted for the stage by Charles Way
Presented with the permission of The deFaria Company
Directed by Bill Cronshaw
Dreamshed Theatre’s 2011 Christmas production at the Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham.
Photographs by Matt Golowczynski
THE BORROWERSSimon Lewis
The Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham
21st December 2011
If you’re after rousing songs, corny jokes and the chance to shout “It’s behind you!”, there are pantomimes round here in abundance. For those of us, however, who like to believe in fairies and prefer a good old-fashioned story that stimulates the imagination and is simply well told, Dreamshed’s Christmas and New Year presentation at the Playhouse will deliver the goods with interest.
Mary Norton’s classic 1952 book, cleverly adapted for the stage by Charles Way, is a tale of two worlds, one beneath the floorboards where the hardy little borrowers live, the other above it and ruled by the Wicked Witch of the East, in reality crabby Mrs. Driver. She’s forever on a downer, of course, as you’ll soon be rooting for the good guys who, needless to say, ensure a happy ending in this festive season. Amidst large champagne corks, safety pins and wristwatches, the fun factor runs high and the diverse characters bring it all entertainingly to life on Mike Kingston’s masterpiece of a split set. That is, until the Victorian country house mutates into a beautifully lit, emerald green meadow, where, it appears, the Old Woman has moved out of the shoe, maverick borrower Spiller duels with an outsize wasp, and even a giant grasshopper strolls by. Children will love the gypsy boy and pony-tailed, exuberant Arrietty, while her level-headed father Pod and dutiful mother Homily will strike chords with grown-ups.
For that is the production’s strength; there’s something for everyone in this enchanting masquerade, which rolls back the years and invites us all to feel young again. Never mind looking out for Santa’s reindeer; there’ll be many an excited child trying to take up the carpet and get to work with a screwdriver. Delightful.