'Howl's Moving Castle' or 'Castles that run and people who fly'
'Howl's Moving Castle', Mike Sizemore
Southwark Playhouse, Wednesday 14th December
Written for The Metro
*NB This is a slightly extended version of the review, which appeared in The Metro
In a land far away, lives a dastardly wizard named Howl and his unhappy captive, Calcifer. Into this magical landscape stumbles Sophie, a once pretty lass who has been cruelly transformed into a stooped, old lady. Will Sophie find a way to free herself, Calcifer and even the castle?
'Howl's Moving Castle' began as a children's book and, with hints of Harry Potter and Narnia, it oozes innocent magic. Now, at Southwark Vaults, Diana Wynne Jones' book has been transformed into a precociously imaginative stage play by directors and designers, Davy and Kristin McGuire.
The basic set is a simple, cardboard cut-out of a Disney-like castle. But this enchanting backdrop is just the beginning. Over the set is layered a series of sophisticated projections, which transform the stage with extraordinary speed and grace. We see castles run and people fly. We watch endless figures scurry amongst huge, swaying trees. We see walls ooze, floors dissolve and fire dance.
Davy and Kristin McGuire have created a space in which anything is possible – but they've also been careful not to let the special effects steal the show. Instead, the performers and projections interact seamlessly; a flickering lady caresses an actor's head, fake fire emerges from real fingers and an old lady talks to a projection of her younger self.
This technical wizardry is matched by some suitably colourful performances. Stephen Fry's teasing narrative injects the show with real warmth and Daniel Ings' eccentric Howl is bonkers, sharp-tongued and utterly charming.