It was quite exciting entering the foyer of Southwark playhouse the lights shone from across the road beckoning people to come inside. I spyed some cute J-fashion as I walked towards the auditorium to see none other than the actress playing Kiki. This was an adaptation of the popular Studio Ghibli anime.
Kiki is a witch in training and has come of age to leave her home to find her own place in the world and her own skills. Armed with her mothers steady broom, black dress and Jiji the cat her advisor and close friend she sets off into the night sky.
They set the scene with Kikis father lecturing on how to be a witch which gave some background into what the story would be about. Her mother (Anna Leong Brophy) shows typical over protective worry about Kiki leaving but gifts her with her fathers red radio an iconic item that becomes hand throughout her journey. You could really feel her tensions on her tone of voice and also in her facial expressions. Kiki (Alice Hewkin) showed blissful ignorance, just wanting to jump heads first into a big old world with a cute outfit and to her dismay is not recognised as a witch perhaps her mother was right about wearing the black dress?
Upon trying to find a skill to help the town with she meets Asuno who is running a bakery and heavily pregnant, she offers Kiki a place to stay and food on the condition of doing deliveries via flight which Kiki happily accepts. Flying is her talent and enacting this on stage was quite the effect, we had actors lifting up actors and actresses we had a little cross-gender roles which were executed perfectly. I also noticed a few changes in story and also the delivery service is name Witch Delivery Service to keep it fresh and make it new to classic Kiki fans.
In total there were six actors swapping roles to play all the characters; Matthew Forbes, Tom Greaves, Alice Hewkin, Anna Leong Brophy, Jack Parker and Paksie Vernon. I particularly liked the emphasis on British accents whether it was posh or West country.
You sat around a flat stage where you felt like you were part of the production. The use of visual (Andrzej Goulding) and audio (Max Pappenheim)tools was excellent seeing videoed clips for Kiki as she flew into the sky and reached the clock tower. You could also have audio recordings for them as they blackened the stage to change scene.
Matthew Forbes was exceptional playing the voice and also doing the puppetry for Jiji the cat (guided by Robin Guiver) which I did not expect to see, I thought the cat would be animated on screen. It was amazing seeing him glide around the stage with cat like approach and mannerisms. All actors who werent in the scene but moved on stage to change props or mimic movement where wearing a lilac/pink ensemble which was endearing compared to the usual black.
Kikis Delivery Service marks Southwark Playhouses second Studio Ghibli universe enactment. Five years ago, the theatre produced a version of Howls Moving Castle also artistically directed by Chris Smyrnios. Making an elaborate cardboard set that resembled the pages of a pop-up book. Christmas is a great time to present shows that would be difficult any other time of year, Smyrnios says. Also In 2013, Whole Hog Theatre staged the eco-friendly fable of Studio Ghiblis Princess Mononoke at the New Diorama in central London using giant puppets made from recycled materials. With a larger cast weirding the props and puppets.
Seeing this play adaptation as an anime enthusiast it was great to see such a unique interpretation even if the ending was a lot different than most remember from the anime. I wont reveal any spoilers as there are still dates left to see this wonderful family film. Definitely a great homage to Studio Ghibli.
Buy tickets here.