Very emotional said my young nephew between mouthfuls of chocolate ice-cream. He is right of course- Hetty Feather takes you on an emotional high-wire ride from moments of real sadness, including the subtly portrayed and very poignant on-stage death of one of the child-characters, to truly warming highs such as the wonderfully choreographed and very high (altitude) dance of Hetty’s real mother and father as they fall in love.
The play is adapted from a book by the deservingly popular Jacqueline Wilson (The Diary of Tracy Beaker, The Illustrated Mum and so many more great stories) who never patronizes her readers but gives them real characters with real flaws and problems.
Hetty Feather is the story of an indomitable little girl of great courage. She refuses to let her start in life as the abandoned baby daughter of an unmarried mother in the spirit-crushing Foundling Hospital prevent her from escaping. Hetty uses her free-flowing imagination – she calls it “picturing”- to enter into many different worlds including the glamour and freedom of the circus as displayed for us in the character of the dazzling Madame Adeline so convincingly played by Nikki Warwick.
There are many stars in this show but the most unexpected is the stage itself: Katie Sykes has made a clever, colourful and flexible set that allows for wonderful aerial performances and permits Hetty, played by Phoebe Thomas with the life-force both she and the central character clearly have, to dominate the world in which she is forced to grow up.
This production is a treat for any 7 to 12 year-old. There are many giggles: Hetty’s retelling of the best bits in the Police Gazette comes to mind as do the many parts played by Mark Kane. There are music, acrobatics, dance and most importantly a wonderful story which will leave young ones convinced that “when you don’t know who you are you can be whoever you want to be”.
Jacqueline Wilson has written sequels to Hetty Feather – let’s hope there are more stage versions to come.