Preview: The Grinning Man
By Canadian Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler
Trafalgar Studios, London
By Jarlath O'Connell
Think of a cross between the macabre, magical, wit of 90’s cult hit Shockheaded Peter and the full blooded emotion of Les Misérables and you are part of the way there in imagining the romantic, gothic musical The Grinning Man, which is being touted in theatrical circles as the next big thing.
Premiered at Bristol Old Vic and directed by the supremo there, Tom Morris, it arrives in the West End on 6 Dec. Morris won a Tony for War Horse and this visual feast reunites him with the puppetry company Gyre & Gimble from that show.
Like Les Mis it is a musical re-imagining of a Victor Hugo classic novel, in this case The Man Who Laughs, and is adapted by Kneehigh writer Carl Grose. It tells the story of a boy who is cruelly disfigured as punishment but is rescued by an old man, a lone wolf and a blind girl. Paraded as a freak then later celebrated as a star, it promises big themes and big emotions. Critics praised its blackly comic brilliance and how it deftly walks the tightrope between the romantic and the grotesque.
The score by Canadian Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler has been hailed as one of the best of the decade and rising star Louis Maskell is already attracting award nominations. Julian Bleach best known for his defining role in Shockheaded Peter will support and probably carry out grand larceny.