After a successful run at the Bristol Old Vic, a brand new musical, The Grinning Man, has made its West End debut at Trafalgar Studios. Inspired by the classic novel from Victor Hugo, most famous for Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, it tells the story of Grinpayne, a young man whose face has been lacerated to bear a terrifying gory grin.

The production has transformed the theatre into a haunting 17th century fairground, with the walls covered in faded red and yellow bunting, and hundreds of old circus posters, advertising the amazing ‘TRAFALGAR FAIR’. Meanwhile the stage itself is encircled by a frightfully large mouth which juts out into the audience, emulating the disfigurement of the musical’s mysterious and eponymous protagonist.

After been adopted into a travelling freak show as a boy, Grinpayne’s morbid attraction reaches the attention of Duchess Josiana, the perversely hedonistic and illegitimate daughter of the King. Invited into the decadent, peculiar and wickedly comical realm of the royal court, Grinpayne discovers that the truth behind his mutilated face is closer than he thought, but the truth comes at a dark price.

The musical features an array of interesting characters, from the strange and unnerving court clown Barkilphedro to the beautiful and blind Dea, Grinpayne’s love interest and co-star in his freakshow. However, it is the marvellous puppetry (brought by War Horse’s Tony-award winning director Tom Morris) that stands out throughout the performance, which brings to life Grinpayne and Dea as small children, and Mojo, a skeletal pet wolf that serves as the protagonist’s protector throughout the play.

Overall the musical combines elements of a gothic fairytale with dark humour, eccentric characters and stunning visuals to create a fascinating and entertaining story, which differs from the usual upbeat personality of most West End musicals, but as it continues to provide the same sense of amusement and enjoyment, The Grinning Man is well worth a watch.