When we were invited by Karen to join her and the girls at a performance of The Borrowers at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre with Storyhouse this afternoon, I jumped at the chance to see a childhood favourite re-imagined.
“A brand-new version of Mary Norton’s irreverent children’s story of the little people who borrow in order to survive. Arietty, Pod and Homily Clock leave their home beneath the floorboards to explore the world beyond… A joy for all the family!”
Parking for Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is in the middle of Grosvenor Park in Chester city centre. We recommend parking at Little Roodee car park and walking down the river to Grosvenor Park – it cost us £5 for the whole day and there were plenty of spaces. The walk along the river took ten to fifteen minutes but was a really nice walk and worth it to avoid paying extortionate city centre parking prices!
From what we saw of the park itself, it’s a really lovely space with a play area (we didn’t have time to investigate) and clean public toilets. The theatre itself is a temporary structure and as such not really signposted within the park but you should be able to find it easily enough.
Seating at the theatre is first come, first served so get there early!
We had a picnic on the grass outside before making our way into the Open Air Theatre space where there was a bar, food stall and deckchairs as well as some things for the children to play with. Tickets for the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre are sold according to position within the theatre but seating itself is first come first served. We were told we were welcome to go in and reserve our seats as soon as the theatre opened but that we were free to go back out again and make use of the play equipment – this was much appreciated as sitting in the theatre with six children for an hour before the performance started filled neither of us with joy! Around about half an hour before the play started, the theatre really started to fill up – we noticed one or two members of the audience arriving fairly last minute and then struggling to find space to sit together – if you’re in a large group like us, definitely get there early!
Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather!
On the subject of seating, the theatre is set up in terraces but you are provided with fold out seats (similar to this) for comfort – these were a lifesaver, I’m not sure either of us would have comfortably been able to sit on a step for two hours! They stopped you from getting a numb bum, supported your back a bit and also kept you warmer! The highest terraces are covered which does offer some protection from the elements but it’s worth considering sunglasses / hats / raincoats – whatever is necessary for being outside on the day!
You can take your own snacks and drinks to the theatre
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre performances pride themselves on being more relaxed and informal than traditional theatre environments making it a great place to introduce younger children to longer performances (the Borrowers was two hours long in total with a fifteen minute interval). You are welcome to take your own snacks and drinks (props to the lady on the front row with a bottle of prosecco!) or you can buy snacks, drinks and ice cream in the interval.
And so to the performance of The Borrowers itself!
Now I know that children’s tv can be a real indicator of age but, if you’re of a similar age to me, I can practically guarantee that you’ll have spent Sunday evenings watching the BBC adaptation of The Borrowers as a child. I was just saying to Karen today that I remember having a bit of a crush on Spiller. Google tells me that the BBC were showing this mini-series in 1992 . . . so understandably my grasp of the story is a little rusty, I know I haven’t read it since then! Which I think made it all the more special today – I had enough of an understanding to know exactly what was going on and revel in some childhood nostalgia, whilst thoroughly enjoying this modern adaptation. Karen and I weren’t the only ones enjoying a moment of nostalgia either as there were definitely a number of audience members enjoying the performance without little people in tow!
For our gang, only Ben had read the book before so none of the girls really knew much about the story. With hindsight I think it might have been worth chatting them through a bit of a back story so that they actually understood who or what the Borrowers were – there were definitely moments where Karen and I felt things had gone over the kid’s heads – either because they weren’t entirely familiar with the story or just because they were references and details that were too subtle for them. (These moments are often my favourites in theatre though, moments which show the cast are performing to the entire audience and not just the children).
Whilst Ben, Chloe and Amy have been lucky enough to see a number of theatre performances over the years, we’ve never been to an open air theatre nor watched a play in the round. If I’m honest I didn’t really know what to expect but it was just wonderful. The sound didn’t suffer at all for being out in the open and we were lucky with the weather – it wasn’t too cold or too hot, it didn’t rain and the sun wasn’t in our eyes! Watching the performance in the round made us feel fully immersed in the action – we were really a part of what was going on instead of feeling a little detached from what was going on on stage. We were seated on one of the highest terraces which meant that we could see absolutely everything that was going on.
The props and costumes were spectacular – we were constantly noticing different details on everyone’s outfits and the oversized props gave a real feel for just how tiny the Borrowers are. Favourites included an M&S gin in a tin, Homily Clock’s lipstick and an enormous jammy dodger!
Tickets for The Borrowers are available now priced between £26.50 and £46.50 however Under 12’s go FREE* which frankly I think is incredible value! (There are also discounts available for groups and schools so check the website for more details)
As well as The Borrowers, the 10th anniversary of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre also sees performances of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Henry V running throughout August.
Why not pop over to see what Karen and her girls thought of The Borrowers too!
*Excludes Premium tickets. Each child MUST be accompanied by a full paying adult, please note: ALL children still require a valid ticket
*We were invited to watch The Borrowers free of charge for the purposes of review, all thoughts and opinions remain our own*