Stories Retold in The Tin Drum

We review the musical, political and quirky, The Tin Drum, a retelling of Günther Grass’ post war provocative extravaganza.

If you know anything about Kneehigh, you will take your seat in the audience expecting something truly mad, as well as musically spectacular and darkly comedic, and The Tin Drum does not fail to live up to Kneehigh’s reputation as one of the most creative, entertaining and thought-provoking companies in modern theatre. Otherwise, however, you never really know what to expect. In their newest adaption of a well-known story (having notably tackled RebeccaThe Red Shoes and The Beggar’s Opera), Kneehigh demonstrate once again their masterful storytelling as we are thrown into the world of Oskar Matzerath, played not by any one actor, but puppeteered and voiced to perfection by several of the cast.

The puppetry, a staple of Kneehigh shows, is as immersive as watching a human being perform (or indeed a Goose later on), and is but one of a huge host of technical aspects incorporated into the show. The lighting, both onstage and from the box, is spectacular, the sound design – much of which comes directly from the live band – cannot fail to leave the audience in awe, and the staging, stripped down to close to the bare minimum, is utilised with Kneehigh’s usual creativity, moving to accommodate whatever action is taking place.

Image: West Yorkshire Playhouse

Often with large-scale productions, it is usual to point out the talent of the ‘main actors’, but with a Kneehigh show, it is the ensemble work that must be praised. There is no ‘lead’ in The Tin Drum, but rather an insanely tight cast who take on multiple roles, dance, sing (incredibly, may I add), and leap about the stage with infectious energy. Naming all the skills utilised by the company belongs to an article of its own, but it must be said that not a single one makes a mess. Every beat contributes to the immersion.

In a show that deals with the rise of Nazism and the impact of the Holocaust, The Tin Drum still manages to be absurdly funny, and has the audience howling with laughter one moment, and staring in horror and disbelief the next. It takes Günter Grass’s original novel and transforms it into a modern commentary on belonging, radical thought, and change, and is as inspiring as it is captivating. The Tin Drum is a must-see for any fans of theatre and storytelling.

The Tin Drum is on until 28th October at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Owen Saunders

(Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Playhouse)