First Look: Production Image of The Grinning Man

The best puppetry since War Horse” The Mail on Sunday

The best British score in years” WhatsOnStage

An extraordinary amalgam of fairytale, puppetry,
romantic drama and black comedy
” StageTalk

A new musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Tom Morris
Trafalgar Studios
Until 17 February 2018

The critically acclaimed production of The Grinning Man, directed by Tony award-winning Tom Morris (War Horse) and based on the classic Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) novel, The Man Who Laughs, will take over Studio 1 at Trafalgar Studios from 6 December, following a hugely successful autumn 2016 premiere at Bristol Old Vic.

However, audiences at Trafalgar Studios should expect a transformed production with a tighter, pacier narrative.  The Observer’s Susannah Clapp wrote in her 4 star review last year: “Take out 20 minutes….and whip it into the West End”.  Well, we have done just that – and more.

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, in the title role of Grinpayne, and Julian Bleach, who plays Barkilphedro, a vengeful clown with a heart of lead. Macabre, magical and visually astonishing, this ultimately elating love story is 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. Let the darkness seduce you.

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

When the show opened last year as the climax of Bristol Old Vics 250th anniversary programme the critics raved: the Telegraph cited its “blackly comic brilliance”; the Daily Mail hailed it as “weird and wonderful, a dark delight”; the Guardian said the production “deftly walks a tightrope between romantic and grotesque… it defies theatrical convention by keeping its hand on its heart and its tongue in its cheek”.

The Grinning Man also 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 Days Journey Into Night starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville at the Wyndhams.

The producers are delighted to present the show in a specially configured space in Trafalgar Studios for an open-ended run from 6 December.  The Grinning Man underlines Trafalgar Entertainments on-going commitment to staging new work. 

The Grinning Man is produced by Bristol Old Vic, Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Eilene Davidson, Richard O’Brien, David Adkin and Neil Laidlaw.


Previews:                          From Wednesday 6 December

Press night:                       Monday 18 December at 7.00pm

Performances:                   Monday – Saturday at 7:30pmThursday and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm
Box Office:                0844 871 7632

Ticket Prices:                    From £15.00


Twitter:                             @GrinningManLDN

The producers of The Grinning Man are delighted to continue Bristol Old Vic’s commitment to ensuring that tickets to the highest quality productions remain affordable and accessible, particularly to younger audience members, by offering the following special rate:

£25 UNDER 25 RATE: 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.