The Grinning Man

Trafalgar Studio 1
Whitehall, London

Public Previews: 5 December 2017
Opens: 18 December 2017
Closes: 17 February 2018

Buy tickets: 0844 847 1722 or

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Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

Location street map

Theatre seating plan

Show times
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 7.30pm
Thursday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no shows
Note: Thu 7 Dec at 7.30pm only
Note: Sat 9 Dec at 7.30pm only
Note: Thu 14 Dec at 7.30pm only
Note: Mon 18 Dec at 7.00pm only
Note: Mon 25 Dec no shows
Note: Wed 27 Dec at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Runs ? hours and ? minutes

Seat prices
? to ?
(plus booking fees if applicable)

The Grinning Man

The new musical The Grinning Man in London based on the novel by Victor Hugo

A new musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1869 novel The Laughing Man, about a travelling sideshow freak whose face has been carved with a permanent smile.

A strange new act has arrived at the Stokes Croft fair, a grotesque oasis of entertainment. Soon everyone from the gutter rats to the new Queen has fallen for the handmade freak Grinpayne and his hideously beautiful face. But who is he really? And how did he come to be so marked? Together with an old man, a blind girl and a wolf, he has a story to tell. A tale so tragic and so strange that not even he can guess how it will end.

This production comes into London's West End following an acclaimed run at the Bristol Old Vic in October 2016.

The cast features Louis Maskell as 'Grinpayne', the grinning man and Julian Bleach as 'Barkilphedro' who are both reprising their roles in London from the Bristol production.

PLEASE NOTE: This production contains dark subject matter with some scenes of a sexual nature, violence and swearing. The age recommendation is 12 and above.

Directed by Tom Morris with movement by Jane Gibson, sets by Jon Bausor, costumes by Jean Chan, lighting by Richard Howell and sound by Simon Baker. Based the Victor Hugo novel and adapted for the stage by Carl Grose, with lyrics by Carl Grose, Tom Morris, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, and music by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

When this production was seen at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in October 2016 Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said that, "at its best, it displays a blackly comic brilliance and inventive daring that's a joy to behold; at its worst, it feels like rambling, convoluted storytelling that craves parental levels of indulgence, like Tim Burton on an off-day. At almost three hours, it starts to flag... The cruelty and macabre wit needs more continuity, but that sweet-sour contradiction just about works. With some sharp trimming, the whole thing could fly. And any show that closes its first half with a maniacal choral number (celebrating the anti-hero's bizarre newfound messianic appeal) called A Scar Is Born has got to be worth a look." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail wrote that it "is a weird and wonderful show based on Victor Hugo's gothic novel, The Man Who Laughs, produced and directed by Tom Morris. The story is a murky melodrama set in a Georgian fairground where a disfigured man is part of a freak show... What transforms the potentially morose story is Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler's hypnotic music... a dark delight." Ann Treneman in the Times thought that the show "almost works: the main problem is that everything about this production is split. There is Grinpayne's face, of course, slashed by a bloody grin, but the story itself is also double-stranded. On one hand we have a heart-rending love story of a disfigured child who finds his destiny. On the other we have a phantasmagorical farce about royalty with sex, drugs and, ooh la la, frock and roll... There are moments, magical ones, when it all works superbly just not enough of them." Michael Billington in the Guardian highlighted that "the virtue of the show is that it strikes the right balance between the romantic and the grotesque," adding that, "while the musical takes far too long to come to a climax, it defies theatrical convention by simultaneously keeping its hand on its heart and its tongue in its cheek."

"Clarity is not one of this show's virtues, and there is more work to be done and cuts to be made. But an inspired team has created a potentially cult musical that recalls both The Elephant Man and Shockheaded Peter. Tom Morris's production eloquently uses puppets to represent both Grinpayne as a boy and his blind companion, Dea, and is powered by a memorable, soaring score by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler. Brilliantly offensive as the sepulchral Barkilphedro, Julian Bleach is one of many highlights in a show that demands a life beyond its Bristol run." The Sunday Times

"What stage puppet could possibly follow Joey from War Horse? Well, the macabre musical The Grinning Man has one in the shape of a wonderfully scary wolf that takes two to operate and, as a proper wolf should be, is big and bad... With a perky score by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, the evening is like a nightmare - mostly in a good way. Jon Bausor's designs are a triumph... The expert puppetry is by Gyre & Gimble and director Tom Morris is totally at home with the intentionally wooden members of the cast. Our tragic hero is played by Louis Maskell who, poor chap, has to sing through a bloodied bandage. Deeply implicated in the story's abundant evil is the court jester, played by the delightfully gothic Julian Bleach, a graduate of the Vincent Price school of over-acting." The Mail on Sunday

The Grinning Man in London at the Trafalgar Studios public previews from 5 December 2017, opens on 18 December 2017 and closes on 17 February 2018