The Grinning Man Rehearsal Diary – Week 1

Rehearsals have kicked off in London for The Grinning Man and, over the next 5 weeks, we’ll be following the whole process with Associate Director Ben Woolf. Find out all the initial happenings from the very first week right here!


THE GRINNING MAN is a new musical based on the novel THE MAN WHO GRINS by Victor Hugo.

As with many new musicals, THE GRINNING MAN is the product of many years of work by an expanding circle of creative talents.  Having spent so long in development – first with individuals, then in workshops – we have now six weeks to get it into shape and onto stage.

The show blends acting, singing, dancing, puppetry, storytelling, actor-musicianship and stage fighting,  So nothing too ambitious…

It’s an exciting – but real – challenge to get each of these elements to work in themselves.  To make them all come together in such a short amount of time will take a vast amount of energy and focus from the whole company.

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But our first week of rehearsals has been extraordinary.  Tom Morris has led the company through the first third of the show, which happens to be the most technically complex section.  It is the sequence in which the central character, Grinpayne, recounts his life story.  And uncovers the secret of how he came to be disfigured with a permanent, diabolical grin.

We began our week with a read-through.  This was the first chance for us to hear Carl Grose’s full script and to sing through Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler’s score.  It was interesting to get a feel for how the script might work.  And to get a glimpse of the actors beginning to explore their characters.

It is traditional, on the first day, to accompany the read-through with a showing of the model-box – the scale model built by the designer to explain to the company how the show’s design will work.  Regrettably, the M4 had other ideas.  So, instead, our designer Jon Bausor talked us through how the show’s design would work.  It’s a Russian doll design – with each layer revealing itself in surprising ways.

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Some of our company have worked with puppets before.  Many, though, were coming to them for the first time.  So a priority for our early work was for the puppet designers and directors Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié to begin some introductory work.  The puppets will be designed later in the process.

Over the next few days we began to explore the scenes and songs.   The aim was to sketch through the show in broader brushstrokes, giving ourselves enough time and flexibility to tweak things later down the line.

It’s been an exhilarating start to the rehearsal process.  We’re all fired-up and looking forward to next week…


The Grinning Man has been set as the gripping musical conclusion to our 250th Anniversary Season 13 Oct-13 Nov. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

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