Tuesday, April 23

The Borrowers – Theatre by the Lake

The tiny people who live in the walls and under the floorboards make a return visit to Theatre by the Lake as The Borrowers provides family entertainment this Christmas and into the new year, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.

The adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s classic by Theresa Heskins follows the adventures of Pod, Homily and their daughter Arrietty whose life is turned upside down when discovered by the humans living in the house where they live under the floor.

This re-telling, with the permission of the deFaria Company plays around with the scale of life between the tiny Borrowers, the human child & adults – as well as the wildlife in the open fields surrounding the Borrower’s home. With the use of puppets and set scale, we zoom in and out of the two worlds which collide.

The story of the refuge family seeking asylum in a new world reflects some very current affairs, and the original composition by James Atherton brings a very mature soundscape, with East European influences.

The whole cast provides the band of merry musicians, using wooden boxes to bring the beat alive like a skiffle band, with additional bass, violin, guitar, and other brass and stringed instruments. The cast are incredibly flexile in their switch from musician to character.

Photo: Helen Murray

The traditional Christmas production, which provides an alternative to the pantomimes at this time of year, is also a great opportunity for the Youth Cast, local children who are divided into three teams to alternate at different performances – this year names The Scissors, The Safety Pins and The Toothpicks in reference to the human objects the Borrowers like to borrow to make use of in different ways in their hidden lives.

There are some very clever pieces of production which younger members of the audience, as did the adults at the press night, will enjoy including the bath scene in the second half. Also, the butterflies and bee present a lovely scene.

As we follow the Borrowers’ escape and time lost in the wilderness through to finding sanctuary, their journey takes in the four seasons, and arrives at the end of a challenging year.

The final scenes are beautiful, with a hint to the festive period with the Christmas trees outside the tiny homes.

The pace of the action is balanced by with the music and dance, and this production has been made fully accessible with additional captioned and socially distanced performances, and with audio described, British Sign Language and relaxed performances on specific dates.

This production required attention and invites the audience to forget about the real world and enter a micro-version of our own potential existence.

The Christmas production at any theatre is important as it is often the first experience of theatre young people have. This classic tale is one many children will already know, and if not will hopefully take them to the original book and foster a love for live theatre.

The Borrowers run until Saturday 14th January 2023 at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick. https://www.theatrebythelake.com/event/the-borrowers/

Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth

Reviewed: 4th December 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★