Trafalgar Studios (One)

14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY GB

The Grinning Man

The Grinning Man Tickets

based on 15 reviews

Trafalgar Studios (One)

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The Grinning Man – that sounds like a cheery title! It does indeed, a show with happy songs and the feel-good factor. But this production is a darkly comic musical, mixing catchy tunes with sinister puppetry and a dark, gothic story. Think Tim Burton and Phantom Of The Opera, or maybe even Les Misérables. Not so cheery now.

What’s the show about? Grinpayne (played by Louis Maskell) is always smiling. By smiling, we mean he has a grin permanently cut into his face, marking him out as a hideous freak. So, why does he look like The Joker from Batman? We don’t know and neither does he. But he’s determined to find out. Maybe the mysterious, terrifying clown Barkilphedro (Julian Bleach) can help him with the answer (why does there always have to be a scary clown in these kinds of productions?). Or maybe a sightless girl will teach him that it doesn’t matter what he looks like, as long as he has someone who loves him for who he is.

Why have I heard of Victor Hugo? He wrote the original story, The Man Who Laughs, which is what writer Carl Grose adapted to create this musical. Carl is a well-known writer in his own right, one of the team behind KneeHigh’s most famous show Tristan & Yseult. But everyone needs some inspiration occasionally, and Victor Hugo’s story is the perfect dark & twisted tale for the job. Victor Hugo himself isn’t a one-trick pony either – perhaps you’ve heard of his most famous book, Les Misérables?

A show with puppetry… is it just like War Horse? Well, yes and no. No, in that it doesn’t have any horses in it. But yes, in that it does have puppets crafted by the original War Horse puppeteers, Gyre & Gimble. It also is directed by Tom Morris, the original director of War Horse when it first galloped onto stage at the National Theatre. He also took the show across the river to the West End and then across the pond to Broadway.

So, why should I go? It’s the perfect anti-Christmas show, no magical happy ever after and no pantomime spirit. Instead, you get dark & twisted – a macabre, Gothic plot and an outstanding musical score. The puppetry is a clever combo of childlike and creepy, just like those dolls that you see in classic Victorian-styled horror films. Plus, it’s on at Trafalgar Studios for only ten weeks and it’s going to sell fast. So, don’t hang about.

Press Reviews

This stunning new British musical demands to be seen. I simply loved it The Times

As satisfying and heart-wrenching as anything you might see on stage at the moment What's On Stage

A dark-hearted Christmas treat The Daily Telegraph

Stellar storytelling. Triumphant London Theatre

The best puppetry since War Horse The Mail on Sunday

Customer Reviews

What to expect:






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based on 15 reviews

Best show I've ever seen!

The Grinning Man is utterly mesmerizing. The cast are fantastic, particularly the lead actor who is outstanding. The staging is brilliant and there is fantastic puppetry in it, and the script and characters are also really funny. It's unlike anything else I've seen, and really hard to describe, but it's totally captivating and a complete must see. I would recommend it to anyone!

London Box Office customer


I could not rate this show highly enough. From the music to the acting to the atmosphere in the theatre it was amazing.

London Box Office customer

Must see!!

Most amzing fairytale I have seen since my childhood! Magic in real life! Must see!!

London Box Office customer

Poetic, magic, wonderful!!! must see

I highly recommend this show! it is magic, you laugh, you cry (I cried because it is so beautiful and the actors can let you feel the situations), something for your soul. Simply amazing!!! Was there with somebody who is not a big musical fan and he loved it, he already recommended it to his friends.... and me too!!! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

London Box Office customer

Top trafalgar

Seated on the end of aisle C (1+2) generally a great view apart from when the actors used the platform. You would need to be 2 rows back to see that fully. Myself and 13yr old daughter went. Both thoroughly enjoyed the show . Puppetry superb. I have had to explain what an "orgy" is!!!!! We both laughed .

London Box Office customer

Absolutely captivating!!

London Box Office customer

Fantastic show a must see

I feel this show should win an award personally

London Box Office customer

unusual, entertaining and amusing

The puppetry was outstanding, emotional but funny tale. The actors came into the audience so you felt very much a part of the production.

London Box Office customer

A genre busting phenomena

The Grinning man was an absolute treat. It was funny, touching and ingenious. It draws you into its world quickly and keeps you there and thinking about it long after the final curtain. The puppetry was incredible, the stage and stage craft was superb and the actors’ performance ces and singing brilliant. I cannot recommend highly enough- it received a standing ovation and I can’t wait to see it again.

London Box Office customer


This was a fantastic show with an extremely talented cast. My 8 year old and 13 year old loved every second of it as I did too. The show was brilliant from start to finish. The music and lighting were superb and the staff at the theatre were just lovely. Thank you

London Box Office customer

fantasic show, dark and hillarious!

London Box Office customer

a total gem that has lots of humour

London Box Office customer


London Box Office customer

Great Show, great puppets.

London Box Office customer

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Review: THE GRINNING MAN at Trafalgar Studios

21 Dec 2017

The Grinning Man Christmas is a time for over indulgence and the West End’s latest new musical, THE GRINNING MAN, is an opportunity to relish a Grand Guignol excess of melodrama, theatricality, stage craft and emphatic dialogue; all peppered with knowing asides and drenched in a deceptively simple, original score from Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

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Theatre Address

Trafalgar Studios (One)
14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY GB

Trafalgar Studios (One) - Theatre Address

travel info


  • Air conditioned
  • Bar
  • Infrared hearing loop
  • Member of Q-Park scheme
  • Toilets

Theatre Info

  • Capacity: 382
  • Year built: 1930