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Monday, 4 December 2017

REVIEW: The Borrowers at the Watermill in Newbury

Mary Norton’s award winning Borrowers books written in the nineteen fifties present a staging problem for theatre which is easily solved in TV and Film adaptations because the essence of the stories is that the little five inch tall people (The Borrowers) live their lives trying to avoid being seen by the “Human Beans”. The interaction between the two is central to the first book. Toots Butcher’s set design firmly places us in the Borrowers world with a large Colman’s mustard box, abacus, crayons, matchsticks and ABC cubes setting out their home beneath the floors of an old country house in rural England.

It is here we meet Pod (energetically played by Matthew Romain), his worried wife Homily (Charlotte Workman) and their adventurous daughter fourteen year old Arrietty (Nenda Neurer) as Pod returns from another borrowing expedition in the house above. It is easy to accept them as small people in their natural habitat nervously responding to noises from above. The challenge is representing the Human Beans who catch sight of them and it is a weakness of the first half direction that this is inconsistent, sometimes The Boy (played with youthful charm by Frazer Hadfield) is on stage peering into the floor boards, sometimes he is high above look down from a platform and sometime we are asked to imagine he is above the auditorium. The other human beans Mrs Driver (Natasha Karp) and Crampfurl (Ed Macarthur) appear mainly on the stage amongst the Borrowers borrowings. It would have worked better if director Paul Hart had used the high levels of the lovely theatre consistently to represent the Human’s domain and the stage the Borrowers environment.
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