Hetty Feather at the Rose Theatre, Kingston – theatre review

Sarah Goddard, Phoebe Thomas, Matt Constain, Paul Mundell and Isaac Stanmore

Sarah Goddard, Phoebe Thomas, Matt Constain, Paul Mundell and Isaac Stanmore - Credit: Helen Maybanks

Perfectly timed for the Easter school holidays, this brand new adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s popular book, Hetty Feather has burst onto the Rose Theatre’s stage in a blaze of colour.

For director, Sally Cookson, has chosen a vibrant circus theme for the show, which captures the changing moods of the piece beautifully and allows the actors to display some pretty impressive acrobatics.

Fans of the original story of Hetty Feather will be reassured and delighted by how closely the play sticks to its source. not only in terms of the storyline, but in the compelling mix of humour, pathos, fear and fun, as our feisty hero, played endearingly by Phoebe Thomas comes to terms with her ever-changing life, from being abandoned as a baby to coping with the harsh realities of life as a foundling hospital child.

Hetty’s never-ending search for her mother forms one of the main focuses of the piece, with her quest ending in a surprising, highly emotional way.

The rest of the small cast were kept very busy, taking on multiple characters to help tell Hetty’s story - often crossing the genders with great effect. Memorable ones include Matt Costain’s imposing Matron Bottomley who struck fear into the hearts of his (her?) foundling charges, along with some members of the audience, I suspect.

Paul Mundell and Isaac Stanmore were typical big brothers, mixing annoying teasing with steadfast loyalty and love.

More love was poured upon the troubled Hetty by Sarah Goddard’s two extremely motherly and extremely likeable characters, Peg the foster mother and Ida the friendly kitchen maid.

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Finally, Nikki Warwick added a touch of glamour, plenty of humour and buckets of sentiment as the circus’ impressive horse mistress, Madame Adeline, who’s self-proclaimed exotic origins were revealed to be a little closer to home.

The whole thing was brought together by Katie Sykes’ clever circus set and the mood-setting live music from Seamas H Carey and Luke Potter, who often sang lyrics that mirrored the action on stage very closely indeed.

Hetty Feather author, Dame Jacqueline Wilson has been very closely involved in the show, and I am sure she has been delighted by how her characters have come to life. The show is billed as being suitable for children aged seven and above and it will especially appeal to ‘tweens’.

• Hetty Feather is at the Rose Theatre, Kingston until Saturday April 19. Book tickets at www.rosetheatrekingston.org• Pick up a copy of April’s Surrey Life magazine for our interview with Dame Jacqueline Wilson