This show has matured since it was at Kingston’s Rose Theatre in April. An acrobatic, energetic, physical take on Jacqueline Wilson’s popular children’s story about a 19th century child growing up in the Foundling Hospital, it is now a little shorter although it could still lose 10 minutes from Act II. It has become very well paced and somehow even more moving. And, unexpectedly, it loses nothing from being tucked behind a proscenium arch as opposed to the thrust stage at the Rose. The strong sense of immediacy and intimacy remains and the Brechtian elements – especially the train journey and the horses in the circus – are sparklingly fresh,
The same strong cast of six with two musicians work beautifully together. Red-haired Pheobe Thomas is superb as the gleeful, rueful Hetty who, buffeted by the system, richochets from naive assertiveness to feisty fighter. Sarah Goddard is an immensely watchable, highly versatile actor presenting a wide range of ensemble roles as well as playing both Hetty’s kindly foster mother and Ida the woman from the kitchen who seems unaccountably interested in Hetty. Matt Costain’s movement work as the stern Matron Bottomly is striking and Paul Mundell is heartwrenching as the damaged Gideon.
Benjy Bower’s music, played by two on-stage musicians occasionally joined by cast members, helps to build emotion, tension and occasionally excitement and the Elijah the elephant, when the circus comes to town, is little triumph of imaginative puppetry.
- Vaudeville Theatre, London
- August 5-September 6
- Author: Jacqueline Wilson adapted by Emma Reeves
- Director: Sally Cookson
- Design: Katie Sykes, Aideen Malone lighting. Leigh Davies sound
- Composer: Benji Bower
- Technical: Rebecca Marie Loxton stage manager James Hassett production sound operator. James Horsington technical ASM Juliet Craft wardrobe, Gwen Hales aerial director
- Cast: Phoebe Thomas, Matt Costain, Sarah Goddard, Paul Mundell, Nikki Warwick, Isaac Stanmore, Alex Hearne musician, Luke Potter musician
- Producers: Rose Theatre Kingston, William Archer, Novel Theatre, KW & NB LTD
- Running time: 2hrs 20mins