'Small is beautiful' as The Borrowers delights audiences at the Abbey Theatre

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Jon Schick

Madeleine Burton reviews The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Jon Schick

Small is beautiful at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans where the Company of Ten is putting on its annual Christmas show for children.

The Borrowers is no easy play to stage as it tells the story of the tiny Clock family who live under the floorboards of an English country house in the late 19th century.

To survive they ‘borrow’ from the occupants of the house and all is well until their existence becomes suspected and the housekeeper is determined to drive them out.

This charming tale is dependent on imaginative set and props teams and the Company of Ten has those in spades.

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Jon Schick

The miniature home of the borrowers sits alongside a room in the country house and clever devices are used to demonstrate the discrepancy in sizes.

So, for example, when the occupants of the house set about ridding themselves of the Borrowers, a screwdriver used to unscrew the floorboards and fish out anything underneath, appears downstairs as something of lance-sized proportions. It is brilliantly done.

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The Borrowers also uses puppets and video effects – a crow swooping on the tiny family in the fields is used to full effect – so there is plenty there to keep little people of the human variety fully engrossed.

Directed skilfully by Katherine Barry, whose mother was in the cast of 1992 BBC production of The Borrowers, it is a delightful show with an enthusiastic cast.

The roles of Arrietty Clock and the Gypsy and Eggletina are shared between Eva Lau-Johnston and Olivia Goss, both of whom are delightful.

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Jon Schick

And I particularly liked Anna Barrett as the Borrower matriarch Homily who is a dead ringer for the actress Imelda Staunton.

She throws herself wholeheartedly into the role as does Haydn Davis as her husband Pod.

There is almost a pantomime villain in Mrs Driver, the bossy housekeeper. Shelley Bacall plays her so well that you can imagine plenty of hisses and boos from young Abbey Theatre audiences.

The Borrowers is not for very young children but older ones will love its fairy tale qualities – and so will their parents and grandparents.

It runs until December 28, with performances at various times.

Further details can be found on the website www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Borrowers at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Jon Schick


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