Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather was always a favourite book of mine as a child. I read it many times and I guess this is one of the reasons I felt fairly apprehensive about a stage production of it. However, I was not disappointed.
There were many differences between Hetty Feather the play, directed by Sally Cookson, and the original novel by Jacqueline Wilson, but at the same time there were many similarities.
I guess it was the familiarity combined with the wit and the talent of the actors and actresses that made the show a success, with not only the little ones laughing, but the older members of the audience as well (including myself!)
The cast were brilliant with Pheobe Thomas as young Hetty Feather. I had originally thought that rather than Thomas, Hetty should have been played by a younger actress, but she made not only the part, but the play. The quality of the acting and the music was amazing and the acrobatics were skilled, neat and well performed – at least to the untrained eye. I found the use of a small stage, set, cast and props very clever and that it added to the humour of it.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the element of surprise and not knowing what will happen to the unfortunate, fiery, redhead you grow to know and love, no matter how many times you’ve read the book. The contrast between the sad and the funny scenes added to this. The transition between scenes however was not great and at times I found myself not knowing where we were and when to applaud.
I really liked the soliloquy given by Hetty Feather on her arrival at the Foundling Hospital and I found it helped establish a bond between the character and the audience.
One thing that I did not enjoy so much was the focus on the circus set. The book is set mostly in trees, fields, countryside and the hospital whereas the play was seemingly set almost entirely at the circus. I did enjoy the simplicity of the set though and liked the use of the ladders etc. The random wooden planks, however, just confused me. I was not sure what they were or why they were there and seemed to make no sense or link with the story.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the production and would recommend it to lovers of the book or those who just enjoy a fun yet enchanting tale.