Many children will know the tale of Hetty Feather, the heroine of Jacqueline Wilson’s novel about a Victorian child who experiences life in the foundling hospital, and a mesmerising production of the book has reached the stage at Bath’s Theatre Royal. This is a wonderful family theatre experience which held us all spell-bound throughout.
The production follows the early life of Hetty from baby to infant and through to child as she begins a search for her birth mother and meets many friends and foes along the way. There are songs, incredible music, a trip to the circus and the drudgery of life in London’s infamous foundling hospital all played out on the stage before us in the most incredible way.
The stage is set around a circular space which at times is a circus ring, a forest, the playground at the hospital or the home which Hetty first grows up in. High up above there are ladders which the cast nimbly climb, ropes and silks which become tree branches or fantastical moments where stories are told. Much like our heroine, we are invited to picture and imagine the incredible world of Hetty through the simple and effective setting and you cannot help but be swept along with the tunes and visual feast being set out before you. The sheer gymnastic strength of all the cast is used to good effect and the hoop used by Hetty as her starting point and the location of the circus performer who she believes is her mother, become an important place we return to time and again.
This production of Hetty Feather is a true test of the small troop of actors which numbers only six, with many of the cast playing multiple roles which appear and disappear in quick succession. This give the show a real pace and energy. Phoebe Thomas as Hetty is rarely off the stage and delivers a convincing central performance of the driven and spirited Heroine.
There are moments of real delight and fun in Hetty Feather, especially in the circus sequences and together with some outstanding music and singing delivered throughout the show there’s a real uplifting feel to the performance, despite dealing with some difficult subject matter. That being the case, the show is better suited to slightly older children.
Hetty Feather runs at Theatre Royal Bath until the 13th of January and comes heartily recommended as a thought provoking and delightful production. You can find out more at the Theatre Royal Bath website.
We were guests of the Theatre Royal Bath for the purpose of this review but our views are our own.