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Show Breakdown: The Grinning Man

21 December 2017 by Emily Moulder
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“The stunning new musical demands to be seen.” – The Times

Now playing in London, The Grinning Man is an exciting new musical that arrives from a critically-acclaimed run at the Bristol Old Vic. It’s a dark tale about the pain and secrets of a family of outcasts performing in a sideshow: an old man with a tortured past, a beautiful blind girl and Grinpayne, a boy with a hideous smile. Get to know the story, cast and creatives better with our Show Breakdown.

The Story

The show is adapted from Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel ‘The Man Who Laughs’ and is set in a topsy-turvy version of 17th Century London (or Lon Don as the characters pronounce it). Grinpayne, a man whose face was carved into a hideous permanent smile as a child, struggles with the pain of his past and the uncertainty of his future. He lives with his makeshift family: his father Ursus, the man who found him and keeps them afloat with a travelling show, and Dea, the beautiful blind girl who Grinpayne found love with.

Meanwhile, an unconventional Royal family and their malicious clown servant, Barkilphedro, discover Grinpayne, who can finally learn the truth behind his smile.

The Cast

Leading the cast is Louis Maskell as Grinpayne, who played the role in the Bristol run. We caught up with Louis to talk about his role and the show after an exclusive preview event. When asked about what he’s excited for London audiences to experience in the show, he said, “It’s genuinely so unbelievably theatrical that it’s very rare that you have a piece like this that you don’t think about other things. I know I’m biased but the people who I know who have seen it have been totally immersed because the puppetry is so good, it’s like the purest form of theatre. It just grabs you and takes you on an incredibly romantic, dark and funny ride.”

Playing Dea is Dutch star Sanne Den Besten, who you might have seen most recently as Sophie in the hit musical Mamma Mia!. Playing her father Ursus is Sean Kingsley who has basically been in everything, but most notably Les Misérables, Billy Elliot, Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats.

As the scheming clown Barkilphedro, Julian Bleach also brings the show from Bristol. He’s great at playing villains, having had practice when he played Davros, Lord of the Daleks in Doctor Who and Niccolo Machiavelli in The Borgias. Julian has also performed in countless regional theatres around the country, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen him on stage or screen before.

The Creatives

Bringing audiences into the dark world of The Grinning Man is Director Tom Morris (War Horse). He’s working with acclaimed puppeteers Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié for Gyre and Gimble to create a terrifying wolf character and the child versions of Grinpayne and Dea.

The hauntingly beautiful music is created by composers and lyricists Tim Philips and Marc Teitler, while the book is written by Carl Grose. All these talents combine to create a creeping, off-kilter feeling that will keep the audiences on the edge of their seats.

Don’t miss The Grinning Man, book your tickets now!

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