REVIEW – Hetty Feather (The Lowry, Salford)

Jacqueline Wilson's --Hetty Feather-- at The Lowry until 10 January 2016 © Copyright Helen Murray 2015
Jacqueline Wilson’s
–Hetty Feather–
at The Lowry until 10 January 2016
© Copyright Helen Murray 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

“Only a few days old and lost everything – my home, my mother and my name”

Hetty Feather was left by her mother at the London Foundling Hospital as a newborn baby. Written by best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson, Hetty Feather traces the life and experiences of a foundling child – her experience in foster care, her dalliances with the travelling circus and her return into education at the Foundling Hospital. Hetty is a feisty little thing – kindhearted, intelligent and imaginative- we follow her story as she battles to overcome all odds in the search to find her real mother.

This Olivier Award nominated production is a real treat for the Quays Theatre at The Lowry this Christmas – with a talented and award-winning creative team and an energetic, tumbling and climbing ensemble of performers. Hetty Feather is a thrilling, emotional and uplifting story adapted for the stage by writer Emma Reeves and directed by Sally Cookson.

The stage is set as a circus tent and a real playground for the performers – there are red aerial silks, ropes and ladders – designer Katie Sykes has really created the perfect canvas for Jacqueline Wilson’s characters to somersault and shine. Before the show opens, Musicians Seamus H Carey and Luke Potter set the tone for the audience with their lively folk music and we are transported back to Victorian England.

Casting is perfect with Phoebe Thomas taking the title role of Hetty Feather, with her long fiery red hair she is captivating – playing a five-year-old with ease and layering Hetty’s difficult start in life with humour and defiance. All six performers show their versatility in playing a variety of roles – they enthrall with their fusion of storytelling, live music and circus skills. Sarah Goddard tugs at our heartstrings playing foster mother Peg and Ida; talented Matt Costain takes on the contrasting roles of warm-hearted foster brother Jem and stony-faced Matron Bottomly; Nikki Warwick earns hefty applause as the trapeze artist Madame Adeline with Nik Howden as Saul and Mark Kane as Gideon completing the dynamic line-up.

Hetty Feather is an imaginative and innovative production – a fabulous adventure packed with colourful characters, a lively musical score and captivating performances. With a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes, it’s a superb treat for older children who are so often overlooked in quality children’s theatre. Hetty Feather is an outstanding entertainment choice this Christmas – giving us all of the fun of the circus as we squeal, gasp, quake and applaud in Hetty Feather’s journey to find her mother.

-Kristy Stott

Hetty Feather runs at the Lowry in Salford until 10 January 2016. 


REVIEW – To Kill a Mockingbird (The Lowry)

 ©  Johan Persson
© Johan Persson
Date: 19 May 2015
Upstaged Rating: 


Adapting Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, for the stage is a brave decision to make. The novel has recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary and besides being a staple on the GCSE curriculum, it has been translated into 40 languages and sold over 30 million copies worldwide. This humble, poignant and charming stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel pays homage to the legacy of the novel and everyone who has read it.

With simple staging the cast present the story of racial injustice in a small-town community in the Deep South. Lawyer Atticus Finch is in seek of the truth when he represents Tom Robinson, who stands accused of rape. The narrative is told through the eyes of his daughter, Scout who is a feisty and inquisitive young girl.

The play opens with the whole of the cast holding various editions and well thumbed copies of the novel in an acknowledgement to the text. Under Timothy Sheader’s skillful direction, the company then remain visible throughout the production, each holding and reading their copies of the book at each side of the stage. All costume changes are all performed with little fuss on stage, in a bid to create the insular society that the characters inhabit. And musician Luke Potter plays a colourful folk soundtrack composed by Phil King, which hints at the slow pace of life in Maycomb.

The simple stage design by Jon Bausor creates a perfect canvas for the storytelling to shine, as the cast read excerpts from the novel, staying true to the texts original form. Daniel Betts gives a captivating performance as Atticus Finch, particularly during the court scene. Scout (Rosie Boore), Jem (Billy Price) and Dill (Milo Panni) certainly impress, especially when so much hinges on the quality of the child actors in this production.

Perhaps my only qualm is that the production does take for granted that the audience have all read the text – Boo Radley’s character is not really explored enough for us to fear him and as a result the ending does lack some depth. Nevertheless, this is a production which is definitely worth seeing and not just by those studying for their GCSE’s.

-Kristy Stott

 To Kill a Mockingbird is at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 23rd May 2015.