The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers

Philip Pullman
Unicorn Theatre and Illuminations

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Andy Umerah Credit: Unicorn Theatre

One of the Grimms’ lesser-known stories (I had never heard of it, though in fact it has been dramatised and filmed), this is a tale of a boy who seems not very bright, unlike his clever brother. When there were things to do, the elder boy had to do them, except when it meant going through the graveyard or into the dark. Then he refused to do them. The very idea gave him the shivers.

As the younger boy grew up his father thought he should learn to earn a living and the boy replied, “I’d like to learn how to get the shivers. That’s something I don’t understand at all.” His father didn’t see that as a future occupation but saw no harm in his finding out. The local sexton offers to help him, and so begins a succession of events which ought to scare him, but instead improve his situation until...

Well, you may not know this story either so I’ll avoid a spoiler, but twenty minutes later he doesn’t seem so stupid.

The reader this time is Andy Umerah, whose lively telling delivers the quoted dialogue in Cockney, West Indian and a range of other accents.

Director Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, working with the same team involved in all these productions, cuts into close-up for extra energy and briefly introduces extra images such as a skeleton, a cat silhouette or big sharp claws to be a little more scary.

This youngster not only isn’t frightened but he wreaks thoughtless violence—but you needn’t worry, it is unlikely this ebullient performance will lead to nightmares for the 8- to 12-year-olds at whom these tales are aimed.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton