by Mary Norton adapted by Theresa Heskins.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road Newcastle-under-Lyme ST5 0JG To 31 January 2015.
`0.30am 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30 Jan (schools performances).
2.15pm 27, 29-31 Dec, 2, 3, 6, 10, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 31 Jan (Mon-Fri schools performances; Sat public performances).
7.30pm27, 29, 30 Dec, 2, 3, 9, 10, 15-17, 23, 24, 30, 31 Jan.
Audio-described 21 Jan 10.30am, 24 Jan 2.15pm.
Captioned 6 Jan 2.15pm, 10 Jan 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 December.
Humour, humanity and adventure add up to another distinctive New Vic show.
Decades ago a sci-fi TV play showed space travellers being guided to earth. We saw the control-room and the space-travellers guiding their craft. Both groups appeared human, and spoke English. Only at the very end was the truth revealed. Searching the landing-area in the mist, a human foot crunched-down on a small circular object. The human-like aliens were only centimetres tall.
It’s a play that might have been written by a sci-fi loving Borrowers fan. Mary Norton’s Borrowers are miniature folk living concealed around the house, their family names taken from where they have settled (the Clocks are prominent here). As for whether they exist – something has to explain why objects from combs and watches to pins and needles repeatedly fail to be where you know you left them.
Like other New Vic Christmas shows and summer novel adaptations, this shows New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins at full strength. It’s a piece for 5+ (adults included), the story told clearly and showing imaginative use of theatricality – in Heskins’ time the New Vic has developed from theatre-in-the-round to a 3D affair, with height as important as ground-based dimensions. Working with a design and technical team who know the theatre intimately, she turns challenges into opportunities. Nothing seems problematic, no effect appears contrived or effortful as the action flies (sometimes literally) inventively along.
Yet it always allows for the human dimension. Borrower or human (and, if size doesn’t matter, is there any more than a distinction without a difference?), each character can evoke sympathy. However large the cotton-reels or matchboxes are to the little people, their hearts, hopes and fears are fully-proportioned in Heskins’ account.
It’s this – so well embodied throughout this fine cast – which gives the piece its grip and ultimate satisfaction. But there’s plenty too on the surface, as in the key moment when a human sees a Borrower venturing up a curtain. For one it’s a surprise; for the other a frightening moment when a long-feared anxiety is realised, with major consequences after the interval.
Combining humanity with theatrical adventurousness, this makes another fine New Vic Christmas-time show.
Homily: Shelley Atkinson.
Boy: Huw Blainey.
Aunt Lupy: Victoria Brazier.
Rich William: Jonathan Charles.
Uncke Hendeary: Richard Colvin.
Spillrt: Michael Hugo.
Mrs Driver: Polly Lister.
Eggletina: Katy Phipps.
Arriety: Vanessa Schofield.
Pod: Nicholas Tizzard.
Crampfurl: Ali Watt.
Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer/Musical Director: James Atherton.
Puppetry director: Paschale Straiton.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Costume: Lis Evans.
Vocal coach: Caroline Hetherington.
Aerial consultant: Graeme Clint.
Assistant director: Poppy Rowley.
Assistant choreographer: Kelsey Moran.