Play review by Julia Pattison: Hetty Feather at York Theatre Royal

There were many moments of magic in this production, and humour too, to counter the poignancy of Hetty's bleak life in the Foundling Hospital. Photo by Tom Arber.
There were many moments of magic in this production, and humour too, to counter the poignancy of Hetty's bleak life in the Foundling Hospital. Photo by Tom Arber.

Children’s Theatre: Hetty Feather

Venue: York Theatre Royal

Review by: Julia Pattison

Over the years I’ve enjoyed reading many of Jacqueline Wilson’s books, but I have to say that Hetty Feather (2010) is one of my favourites.

In the book, Foundling Hetty Feather tells the story of her life from her abandonment as a baby to the adventures she has growing up in the famous Foundling Hospital in Coram Fields and finally finding a new life for herself.

This poignant book has been skilfully adapted by Emma Reeves, with a stunningly visual circus set, designed by Katie Sykes, representing what Hetty dreams of and where she feels she truly belongs, with many of the images being created using silks, ropes and a hoop.

Director Kate Veysey along with Assistant Director Laurence Young have brought the very best out of the 44 young members of York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre, and the result was a heartfelt and thrilling visual feast of a story.

There were many moments of magic in this production, and humour too, to counter the poignancy of Hetty’s bleak life in the Foundling Hospital. Luke Tearney was outstanding in his role of Matron Bottomley, ably balancing between being sinister and being a pantomime villain; no mean feat. Hannah Brown was cast perfectly as feisty Hetty Feather who defiantly refused to submit to Matron Bottomley’s grim authority, and Jem was portrayed brilliantly by Stan Gaskell, who brought some brief happiness into Hetty’s life before she was forced to return to the hospital when she turned six years old.

Laura Soper (who trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School) was a delight as Madame Adeline, and as a former member of the York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre must have been very proud to return to perform alongside young members of the company.

All credit to the young members for their focus, professionalism and dedication, everyone had clearly thrived on working with an outstanding creative production team of 20 people; from a full size elephant puppet (directed and designed by Marc Parrett) to amazing Aerial Antics (choreographed by Jen Parry), fabulous lighting and music this was a show of a breathtakingly high standard that couldn’t fail to entertain an audience.