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The Grinning Man transfers to Trafalgar Studios

Louis Maskell in The Grinning Man © Simon Annand.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING a hugely successful autumn 2016 premiere at Bristol Old Vic, the critically acclaimed production of The Grinning Man is transferring to Trafalgar Studio 1 for an open-ended run.

Directed by Tony award-winning Tom Morris (War Horse) and based on the classic Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) novel, it opens on December 18, with previews from December 6, 2017.

This romantic gothic musical love story, set in a fantastical world with a dark heart, is brought to life by Kneehigh writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase) and “powered by an outstanding score” (Sunday Times) by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

The cast is led by Louis Maskell (Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre, My Fair Lady, Sheffield Crucible, West Side Story, UK tour) in the title role of Grinpayne, and Julian Bleach (Shockheaded Peter), who plays Barkilphedro, a vengeful clown with a heart of lead.

Macabre, magical and visually astonishing, this ultimately elating love story is described as a distinctive delight that barges through the gateway carved by the Nineties cult hit Shockheaded Peter with the full-blooded emotion of Les Misérables.

A strange new act has arrived at the fairground. Who is this youth and how did he get his hideous smile? Helped by an old man, a lone wolf and a blind girl, his story must be told. A tale of an abandoned child with a terrible secret. Paraded as a freak, then celebrated as a star, but only the sightless girl can truly love him for who he is.

The Grinning Man reunites Tom Morris with two puppeteers who began their careers inside Joe and Topthorn in the original production of War Horse – Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié – now leading their own brilliant puppetry company Gyre & Gimble.

The show, presented by Bristol Old Vic and Trafalgar Entertainment Group in a specially configured space in Trafalgar Studios, underlines Trafalgar Entertainment’s on-going commitment to staging new work.

This production joins several other recent Bristol Old Vic hit shows in transferring to the London stage, including Swallows & Amazons at the Vaudeville, Peter Pan and Jane Eyre at the National Theatre and Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville at the Wyndham’s opening early 2018.

The Grinning Man is designed by Jon Bausor, with costume design by Jean Chan, musical supervision by Tom Deering, lighting by Rob Casey and sound design by Simon Baker.

Image: Louis Maskell in The Grinning Man © Simon Annand.

Tickets (on sale on from Wednesday, October 11): From £15. To book, call the box office on 0844 871 7632 or visit

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7:30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm.

NB: A general under 25 rate of £25 (redeemable for any standard-priced seat, subject to availability at time of booking) will be available throughout the run for every performance Monday – Thursday inclusive. Meaning that anybody under 25 will be able to see the show during the week at this special accessible rate. This rate will be available through ATG Tickets, the principal ticketing provider for Trafalgar Studios.