Writer: Jacqueline Wilson
Adaptor: Emma Reeves
Composer: Benji Bower
Director: Sally Cookson
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Renowned author Jacqueline Wilson has been a household name for decades, and rightly so. Her gripping, imaginative tales for the younger readership have inspired generations. Wilson’s penchant for spinning a tale about a wilful young heroine has once again demonstrated itself, this time through the story ofHetty Feather. Hetty, given up by her mother as a baby to the Foundling Hospital, lets her imagination run wild while she desperately searches for her true identity, attempts to cling on to the family that she makes, and learns to grow up fast.
The adaptation of Wilson’s popular novel is by Emma Reeves. Reeves’ adaptation has a poetic beat to it. The language moves along to the score by Benji Bower in perfect harmony. The set, designed by Katie Sykes, excites from the offset. The audience is faced with a circus rig as soon as they step into the auditorium, showcasing aerial rings, silks and ladders. The quality set isn’t only functional; banners and streamers add to the feeling of occasion. The lighting, designed by Aideen Malone, complements the rest of the production, giving clear indications of the changes in scene and mood.
The ensemble cast is stunningly talented. All can boast skills in singing, circus, dance, and multi-rôle acting. Each cast member is mesmerisingly versatile. Between them, they manage to convince the audience that they are playful children, stern matrons and even circus horses to name but a few of the characters. A special mention, of course, must go to Phoebe Thomas who plays the title rôle with steely determination and heart-breaking sensitivity.
What makes the show outstanding is the incredible score by Benji Bower and the musical performances from Seamus H Carey and Luke Potter. Bower has perfectly married his score with the story. He uses the odd recognisable melody alongside original work to reflect Hetty’s own struggle between desiring the familiar and being faced with the unknown. Carey and Potter, who both hail from the south-west, warm up the excitable crowd before the action gets started and don’t stop there. Their vocals and musical skill provide an aural background to the entire action and pull the show up to a higher level.
This productioncan be enjoyed by all ages and is undoubtedly one of the best children’s theatre shows out there at the moment. If you want a toe-tapping tale about an irrepressibly creative young lady then this is the show for you.
Runs until15 November 2015 as part of a tour | Image: Contributed