DramaReviewSouth West

The Borrowers – Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Writer: Bea Roberts from the novel by Mary Norton

Director: Nik Partridge

Designer: Rosanna Vize

Composer: David Ridley

Lighting Designer: Jess Bernberg

Reviewer: Leah Tozer

With a pitter-patter of petite feet and a-pocketing of confectionery, paper planes, and a crisp packet for a great escape, the Factory Theatre is the magical, mischievous, pocket-sized Clock family’s giant playground this Christmas. With witty, loveably believable writing from Bea Roberts,The Borrowersis a whimsical little wonder to warm all hearts this wintertime.

Under the energetic, gentle direction of Nik Partridge, this playful adaptation of Norton’s novel is as delightfully confident and unapologetically joyful as Jessica Hayles’s tiny courageous teenager, Arietty. With her petrified father Pod (Craig Edwards) and plucky mother Homily (Peta Maurice), brave, acrobatic Arietty and the Clock family are forced to escape from their home – with the heroics of Eddie, the bashful human boy she befriends – when bleach-fanatic Aunty Val and her vacuum move in above the floorboards. It’s a cutesy yet timeless tale of compassion, family, and courage, and its perfectly pitched comic performances, particularly Lucy Tuck’s fantastically fanatical Val, fill its pockets full of mischievous charm.

There’s charm in the magic and mischief too, with all performers pitching in to move props and transform the perspectives in the Factory Theatre, from the glittery grass, paper planes, and roped-up rafters of Rosanna Vize’s colourful, cleverly textured set – reflected in Jess Bernberg’s glorious lighting – to fantastically choreographed mischief with a giant vacuum. The perspectives of Arietty and Eddie are as empathetic and playful as the characters, with a gigantic pair of glasses representing Eddie when Arietty is magnified to human proportions, and a high-pitched giggle for Arietty as Eddie takes his human form in David Ridley.

As well as performing as young Eddie, Ridley is also the composer, and his compositions are beautifully camp in Val’s dust-busting cabaret and delightfully comforting in ‘don’t forget the little things’! The music is played with infectious energy Ellie Showering – also with a magnificently entertaining turn as the pest control – and Simon Armstrong’s electric guitar-playing aged-up Eddie, whose magnetic narration frames the performance and works magic on our imaginations.

With pockets full of mischief, imagination, and participation, it’s a truly t’riffic performance with magic and courage for all ages, and it’s infectious: at the interval, a child approaches Aunty Val’s glittery vacuum cleaner and waits for the pitter-patter of teeny tiny feet within. It’s the little things.

Runs until 20th January 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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