Polka’s summer production of The Borrowers is an enchanting adaption of the classic book by Mary Norton. The Borrowers, little people living secretly beneath the floorboards, are in constant fear of the giants (humans) above their heads. Their lives revolve around scurrying upstairs into the giants’ world to ‘borrow’ the things they need without being seen. Thimbles become cooking pots, wine bottle corks are stools and dollhouse furniture are luxury items to a Borrower. But one day the unthinkable happens: their existence is discovered and suddenly the race is on for them to find a new home and ultimately secure the survival of Borrowers everywhere.
The giants’ world above the floorboards and the Borrower’s world below is captured through clever staging and minimalist puppetry. The audience is challenged to flex their imaginations just that little bit and it adds to the overall engagement with the action on stage. The oversized props are full of fun and the grasshopper (who is the size of a cat in the hands of a Borrower), comes to life in the arms of its handler and leaves us all wishing we could take one home. This is a standout ensemble cast with strong performances in particular from all the Borrowers.
There is a fair amount of dialogue in this production and the closing song at the end is so infectious that I couldn’t help wishing there’d been a bit more singing earlier on. Big questions are presented in digestible bites: how honest should a parent be with a child? Are daughters treated differently from sons? Can you live without freedom? The running theme throughout the story is of the young female Borrower’s quest for independence and her passion to live life not in hiding, but out in a world above the floorboards where the sun shines and it gets cold in winter. Her parents find this impossible to believe at first but eventually come to realise that her wish to embrace what life has to offer is a lesson for us all.