The Bookbinder

Aug 7 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✭    Beautiful craftsmanship

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139): Thurs 6 – Mon 31 Aug 2015

A book is a beautiful thing, a story is a work of art and a fairytale is a thing of dreams. The Bookbinder is all of these – it’s a beautiful, articulate and inventive show that is as engaging as it is mysterious.

There’s something that seems to be missing from modern fairytales. They’re often seen as moral codes, where good always triumphs and the hero always wins the day. And that’s often still the case, but in an increasingly cartoonised world, they’ve become a little too nice, they’ve become a little too safe.

Ralph McCubbin Howell as the narrator. Photo: Trick of the Light

Ralph McCubbin Howell as the narrator. Photo: Trick of the Light

Fairy tales of old though were often rather gruesome tales. They showed both horrors and magic. They exposed the bad things that can happen and they faced fears, importantly showing not only that these fears could be beaten, but that things aren’t always what they seem.

The Bookbinder, based on a story by Hannah Smith and Ralph McCubbin Howell – written and performed by Howell and directed by Smith – is a one man show that encapsulates this old charm. It’s aimed at children and adventurous adults alike – and it’s easy to see why. It’s macabre, it borders on the sinister, but above all it’s thought-provoking.

Smith and Howell clearly love the art of storytelling. The writing shines through, it’s intelligent, articulate and beautifully crafted. The language isn’t dumbed-down for the younger audience, as is often the case in a children’s show. Instead it is celebrated and each word perfectly selected to reflect the complexity of the story. But that’s not to say that children couldn’t understand it; there’s no doubt that they do.

a true work of art

The Bookbinder‘s delights don’t just end there. This is a true work of art, the set is also carefully crafted, each part serving as an aspect of the tale. There is an astonishing level of complexity that has gone into the preparation – shadow play, paper art, puppetry, water play, music and light all play their part. The name of the theatre company, Trick of the Light, being particularly apt.

Howell too is an expert storyteller. He acts as the framing device, an old storyteller telling the tale to his audience, he’s reminiscent of John Hurt in a Jim Henson tale. He is engaging and compelling as he draws you into the story of an apprentice bookbinder that got a little too engaged in his work. A good bookbinder after all should be able to fix the book, but they should never read the book.

The Bookbinder is charming and inventive, yet also deliciously dark in a Gaiman-esque way. There needs to be more art like this in the world. It’s already selling out, so book your tickets now while there’s still time.

Running time: 50 minutes
Assembly Roxy (Venue 139), 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Thursday 6 – Monday 31 August 2015
Daily (not Mon 17, Mon 24): 1.40pm.
EdFringe ticketing site:
Trick of the Light theatre website:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.