Review: The Borrowers, Northern Stage, Newcastle

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IT’S been six years since I’ve recommended a Northern Stage Christmas show to anyone – since the excellent Christmas Carol – but this show about small people living under the floorboards of a human house is a cracking fun-filled adventure.

The Borrowers, who live in the house of The Boy (Matthew Cavendish), believe they are the last of their race and their lives are changed forever when the father Pod (Gary Kitching) is spotted “borrowing, not stealing” a cup by The Boy.

The boy in question becomes friendly with the Borrowers’ daughter Arrietty (Murton-born actress Frances McNamee), but his attempts to help his new friends backfires as he reveals the whereabouts of the Borrowers and the wicked cook Mrs Driver (Bev Fox) is determined to violently rid the house of the unwanted visitors.

That’s the first half and as we get to know the characters, at times the tempo drops off to a standstill with too much chatting on stage leading to chattering among children in the crowd; and there are a few pleasant but unmemorable songs.

However, the set pieces are superb and capture the imagination of even the noisiest of vessels. Empathy and laughter were audible as puppets appeared and oversized items were dropped in from above.

Having to flee their home, the second half is a wonderful non-stop romp; avoiding danger, meeting new friends and discovering a whole new world in the next field.

Karen Traynor as the Borrowers’ mother, Homily, completes the excellent lead roles

While the ending isn’t (thankfully) exactly happy families, this production still gives a warm afterglow long after the final curtain has come down.

If it’s a Yuletide alternative to pantomime you’re looking for, this is definitely it.

Ed Waugh