It first came to Bristol Old Vic in 2016 to celebrate the theatre’s 250th anniversary, where it both delighted and terrified audiences with its magical mixture of macabre puppetry, outstanding score and deliciously dark storyline. Now it crosses the country to Trafalgar Studios for just ten weeks, from 5 December 2017 to 17 February 2018. The Grinning Man is here, but what’s he got to smile about?
Based on the classic novel The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo, The Grinning Men tells the story of Grinpayne (Louis Maskell), a freak show attraction who is desperate to find out why his mouth was permanently cut into an eternal, evil grin. Does the sinister clown Barkilphedro (Julian Bleach) hold the answer? If he does, he won’t offer it up willingly. Or perhaps Grinpayne will come to realise that it doesn’t matter what his face looks like, as long as he has the love of another. Especially if she cannot see.
Both original and transfer shows boasted a highly acclaimed creative team, headed up by director Tom Morris. Currently Artistic Director of the Bristol Old Vic, Morris earned his name at the National Theatre as a co-director of War Horse, both in its original home and subsequent runs on the West End and Broadway. Indeed, the original puppeteers of the production, Gyre & Gimble, bring their expertise to The Grinning Man in a stunning display of sinister puppetry reminiscent of a Tim Burton film.
Accompanying Morris in the transfer is original writer Carl Grose, renowned for his work with KneeHigh on their most famous production Tristan & Yseult. Joining them are the original composers Tim Phillips, who makes his musical debut with The Grinning Man, and Marc Teitler, famous for his compositions on Game of Thrones and the Off West End-winning production of Baddies.
The original production of The Grinning Man is no stranger to critical acclaim – it was nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award, UK Theatre Award and BroadwayWorld UK Award, as well as gleaning four and five stars consistently in the national press. The rest of the cast are yet to be announced, but with the calibre of creatives and actors currently involved, this production is guaranteed to be another hit for Trafalgar Studios. Tickets are already on sale for this limited run, so don’t delay for some alternative Christmas cheer.