Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Howl's moving castle: review

With the end of term i had a little free time on my hands before i headed home so obviously my first thought was to go to the theatre!

When you are in London there are many many theatre to choose from and yes i would have loved to go and see my first west end show - alas my budget did not quite stretch to the prices even for a seat in the gods. 
It was actually Mr D that sent me a link to an article reviewing Howls Moving castle at the Southwark playhouse.

At £14 for concessions i thought i would give myself a Christmas treat. I will admit i have never read the book by Diana Wynne Jones but i am a huge fan of the Anime adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki. 
Not knowing what to expect From the Southwark playhouse i headed down to find it hidden down a nook off Tooley street near london bridge tube.
This charming theatre built into old rail way arches makes use of the original features in the bar area. The bohemian feel of brick, low lighting is deserved of the many people that had come to see various performances. As an underscore to the hub bub of pre theatre chatter was the occasional rumble of trains above. The bar area is relaxed with low seating balances with great ease on the fine line of expelling the pretense of theatre and performing arts spaces but also is not the shabby charm that a lot of a amateur dramatic spaces have.
From the Bar you move straight into the Vault which is where the performance of howls moving castle take place.You path is lit by soft lighting and passing a flaming torch you are hit by the simple plain white set designed to look as if cut out of cardboard (personally i think it must have been 6/9 mm ply) and the usual but not unpleasant smell of a cave. this is mainly due to the vault similar to the bar is underneath a railway arch.
Although the space still holds the smells and acoustics of its original use it was not as cold as i expected it to be - i was able to comfortable sit through the performance with out my coat on. 
The pre-set lighting does well to balance the impact of the plain white set which uses the space well which shows that a dramatic stripped down set does not have to be  modernist, A projection of the a fire in the fireplace flickers away during the pre-set, From where i was sat it was slightly out of line but the willing suspension of disbelief did not hinder my enjoyment.
The show opened with the dulcet tones of Stephen fry narrating it soon become clear the reason for the white set is to act as a projection screen for some stunning vistas that match up beautifully making the set an interactive piece with the actors.

The Acting for my taste was a little pantomime, i think that this may have been marketed for a younger audience and the performances reflected that. The strongest I would say was Daniel Ings, reminding me of a young Eddie izzard he performed Howl as an excitable, selfish and self absorbed young Wizard Arrogant from his own  reputation with gestures which were possibly a little over the top, however the unpredictable nature of the character howl suited  the anarchic delivery very well.  
Unfortunately the portrayal of the Witch of the waste by Kristine Mcguire was a little too typically evil witch. it was very much a character you could boo and hiss at which just seemed a little out of place, also i think her projection would have lent it self to a larger auditorium. 
My favourite prop of the show...yup i have a favourite prop!
Susan Sheridan did well in portraying the glee and youthful excitement of Sophie and had a good chemistry with Daniel Ings.

Overall i did enjoy Howl's moving castle possible more for the technical aspect of it the music by Fyfe Dangerfield was haunting and complimented piece perfectly, the lighting and projection really made the piece come alive and solved the problem of quick changes from interior and exterior wonderfully. The variation in the costumed worked perfectly from Sophie's very plain costume to Howls steam punk inspire goggle and the witch of the wastes almost black swan garb really emphasised that all the characters were from different worlds (literally and metaphorically) 

The performance was short -at just over- and hour and i think that if you did not know the story it would have been a little harder to follow but the magic certainly came across and i came out satisfied.  This play does very well in creating an atmosphere for the audience. The level of detail and work that has gone into this performance is worth the £14 and i would recommend that if you are that way you pop in and catch it before it closes on January the 7th 2012.

Howl's moving castle:
by Diana Wynne Jones
Adapted for the stage by Mike Sizemore
Directed and designed by Davy and Kristin McGuire

Photographs by Jane Hobson are from here

Howls moving castle Runs until the 7th January 2012 tickets available from the Southwark playhouse website

1 comment:

  1. sounds an interesting place and piece and on reading your descriptions I started to seee it from a designer's point of view.