Alice Burns

The Tin Drum Production by Kneehigh: A Review

Image courtesy of Steve Tanner

Based on the bestselling novel by Günter Grass, the Tin Drum is a multi-faceted chronicle of a boy who refuses to grow up. Surrounded by a world of complexity, turmoil and cultural change, it has now been transformed into a dazzling and quite frankly bizarre production directed by Mike Shepherd for Kneehigh.

The Tin Drum is currently hosted by the Everyman; a relatively small theatre, allowing for an immersive and intimate experience, supported by a lively and warm atmosphere in the heart of the city. For any lovers of theatre, this venue is a hub for creative talent- new and old.

“A musical on drugs,” described by production writer Carl Grose, is one way of epitomising the initial impression of this diverse and visually compelling production. A feat of theatrical imagination and energy, The Tin Drum represents a curious and – at times – almost psychedelic impression of society’s response to individualism.

Image courtesy of Steve Tanner

The play tells the story of young Oskar, a child caught between the strange love-triangle of his mother Agnes Bronski, his father, Alfred Matzerath and Jan Bronski, his uncle, in the lead up to and aftermath of the Second World War. The Tin Drum articulates elements of key events from the period including the Kristallnacht and the failed defence of Danzig, the polish post office. Told through the self-absorbed eye of a young child, absent from political cynicism, Grass’ account is imaginatively retold without taking moral high ground.

A mastery of puppeteering directed by Sarah Wright is arguably at the forefront of this performance, bringing an extraordinary degree of life and emotion representative of human experience in both comical and harrowing honesty. A visual cornucopia of expertly assembled stagecraft and passion is felt in both the creation and handling of puppets, embodied by the presentation of Oskar- our young protagonist.

This play presents a captivating reflection of human interaction in times of both comedic joviality and hardship: fragmented, uncertain and atmospheric. Musically experimental, Charles Hazlewood composes an audible smorgasbord of sound. We witness an often-arbitrary combination of analogue synths, merging into subtle and random interceptions of jazz and melodic opera, jarred by the brittle raps of Oskar’s drum. Because of this audible uncertainty and fragmentation, this production presents the darkly atmospheric token that “this world is delicate:” a poignant reminder for our own society outside the bizarre curiosity of Oskar’s world.

Image courtesy of Steve Tanner

A transfixing use of light, shadow and darkness makes this play a visual phantasmagoria; with Oskar’s glass-shattering screams, this production holds a haunting effervescence, almost neurotic in its presentation of the human psyche. Yet, in spite of such darkness, there remains an unassailable thread of light running throughout the play as a whole- “we need darkness, for it is how we find the light.” It is this sense of hope which leaves its audience transfixed between a beguiled state of confusion as to what has just been witnessed and an overwhelming sense that it was something very good.

This production highlights the fundamental flaws, idiosyncrasies and energy which make us human. Truthful in its perplexity and honest in its fragmentation; this bizarre reflection of history through the eyes of a child holds a poignant reverberation in modern day society: an inspiring production of theatrical performance.

In theatres from 28th September- 14th October 2017.

Tickets and details of the performance are available at

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2 Responses

  1. Jordan Holdsworth Jordan Holdsworth says:

    Great article, Alice! Lots of detail which transports the reader into an outlandish world. Looking forward to your next!

  2. Billie Walker Billie Walker says:

    This a really well thought out review! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

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