22-27 April 2014
Reviewed by Anthony & Karen Curson
We went to see this stage adaptation of popular children’s author Jacqueline Wilson’s best-selling novel of Hetty Feather, a dark tale of the life of a Victorian foundling and her escape (imaginary and real) from the life she is trapped in due to her low status in society. Born into destitution, Hetty is reluctantly given up by her mother, she is given a number instead of a name by uncaring, strict staff and sent to a foster mother to be raised until being returned to the foundling hospital at the age of 6 to learn how to be a servant, unsurprisingly Hetty doesn’t want this and uses her imagination to “picture” different situations, escaping her life or being rescued by her real mother, convinced by these “pictures” Hetty having been forced to endure the harsh regime at the hospital, runs away to the circus to try and find who she believes is her real mother only to be disappointed, but she finds the obvious to be where she least expects it.
Birmingham Town Hall is located in the city centre within walking distance of several reasonably priced secure car parks, and is a wonderful old building that has benefited from a recent renovation with a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere, the staff we encountered were polite and professional and we found the souvenir programme to be very nicely priced at £3.00.
On entering the auditorium our attention was drawn to the set, a large metal construction with numerous ladders, ropes, hanging ribbons and a trapeze which left us with the impression of a circus tent, which is I’m sure what the designer had intended as much of the action in the play involved using them.
The play itself was absolutely brilliant, the performances by the small but multi-talented cast, led by Phoebe Thomas as “Hetty”, were outstanding, as they not only had to act in different roles but also had to perform circus tricks on the trapeze, ropes and ribbons, all without the aid of safety equipment.
With the exception of Phoebe, all of the of actors take on multiple roles which was achieved each time by a very subtle costume change that was done on stage so the audience could see, they would also adjust the set to create a different scene and use a single prop to allude to scenery, such as holding a plank of wood to simulate a table in a classroom, simple but effective.
Hetty Feather is so different to any show we have ever seen, but in a positive way. We loved the whole style of it, the way that even darkest of scenes had colour and light put into it, without taking away the gravitas of the story, through the “picturing” and acrobatics.
We thought that having the musicians on stage the whole way through was a wonderful touch. They were very much part of the show rather than being hidden away. Much of the singing was done by these two very talented men, Seamas Carey and Luke Potter. They played a number of instruments including an accordion and a ukulele. The music itself was really lovely and very fitting with the mood of each scene.
All in all we really enjoyed it, the show was well directed and acted and as we have previously said well-choreographed.
Niamh aged 9 – “It was very emotional. I loved it when Hetty found out her real name.”
Tara aged 7 – “I really liked the gymnastics. I loved all of it.”
We give Hetty Feather 5 out of 5. A great evening’s entertainment.
Tickets cost from £15 to £21.50 (plus £2.50 transaction fee).
For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0121 3450600.
Town Hall Birmingham, Victoria Square, Birmingham, UK, B3 3DQ | Box Office 0121 345 0600