Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre has always been committed to creating a family-friendly storytelling space.
In recent years that has extended to staging a bespoke show aimed at, but not exclusively for, the younger members of its audience.
And this year, as ‘GPOAT’ celebrates its 10th birthday, not only is it appealing to teeny tiny theatregoers, but its characters are on the tiny side too in the shape of The Borrowers.
But like its pint-sized protagonists, this charming production – adapted by Bryony Lavery from author Mary Norman’s original - is big-hearted and bursting with inventive ideas which will appeal to children large and small (yes, even ones with grey hair or beards).
The close-knit Clock family are on the run from their home under the floorboards after adventurous Shakespeare-spouting daughter Arietty (an effervescent Vanessa Schofield) is spotted by a young ‘human bean’.
While they search for a new home in the danger-strewn outdoors of the park, their fellow Borrowers are sent out in a series of miniature search parties to find and save them.
Among the would-be rescuers are Samuel Collings’ intense commando-like Oggy Oggins, Joseph Millson’s gloriously snobbish lush Oliver Overmantel, and Sarah-Jane Potts as the doggedly pragmatic Ronnie Rainpipe.
The Clock family moves in to a new home. Photos by Mark Carline
While there are some delightful performances, which also include Mitesh Soni’s rapping cricket, perhaps the standout stars of the show are oversized props from the fertile Borrower-like imagination of designer Rhys Jarman.
He has fashioned sized-up versions of every-day items like Jammie Dodgers, Post It notes, pencil sharpeners, paper clips, stamps, labels and lip stick, as well as creative (and lo-fi) special effects to evoke Borrower hazards like slug trails and raindrops.
Meanwhile setting the action inside a miniature version of the Grosvenor Park auditorium is a nifty conceit that involves the audience even more closely in the narrative.
Grosvenor Park has so far eschewed the modern obsession with mic-ing up actors, and for the most part there’s a pleasing clarity to the cast’s delivery – although there are a few frustrating moments when performing in the round means some lines are rendered unintelligible to a section of the audience.