Thursday, 15 December 2011
PrologueLondon is a pretty magical city and the only reason I take such heroic commuting routes is so that I can drink more of it in (while avoiding the crowds). That's how I discovered the RV1 bus route (Riverside route) which runs from Covent Garden (fairly near Aldwych) all the way to Tower Gateway / Tower Hill station.
I took it tonight from Tower Hill to London Bridge. We passed the Tower of London and then went onto Tower Bridge before moving into Tooley Street, where the Southwark Playhouse is. I absolutely love this part of London, so many cool and interesting bits crammed into one place - Hay's Galleria is lovely, there's the More London bit (near the Mayor of London's offices) where there's open air cinema in summer at the Scoop amphitheatre. There's also my favourite journey home, via the ferry from London Bridge pier. So I'd already had a pretty lovely journey before I arrived at the theatre.
Tonight was my first visit to the Southwark Playhouse, which is on the corner of Tooley and Bermondsey Streets, and it is gorgeous. It looks like a proper night out sort of place (they were selling mulled wine and had the boardgame Frustration on the bookshelf!) and I wished I'd arrived earlier to see it without the hordes of people queueing to get into the theatre rooms.
Howl's Moving Castle takes place in a bit of the theatre called The Vault, which is a wonderful space to start off with - I think it's in the bowels of London Bridge station, there certainly seem to be the sounds of trains rumbling past in the near distance and it's basically a big brick arch. They'd set it up rather nicely as well with candle light flickering against the brick wall and as we found our seats there was pleasantly eerie music... and the smell is just wonderful. It put me in mind of a wine cellar (actually there's a bit in London Bridge station itself which has a similar musty smell, but not unpleasant at all).
As you're facing the stage at first all you see is this incredible castle which looks like it's made of paper or cardboard (I didn't have a closer look at it), with windows and crenellations (or whatever the wiggly bits at the tops of castles are called). But the castle is completely plain white to start off with but then, when things start... it's so beautifully done. A castle facade is projected onto it and this changes throughout the performance to take on different settings (inside the castle, outside it, as well as scenes taking place in Sophie's home).
Picture credit: @Dr_Black, used with kind permission (thank you!) - this shows the castle before it was fully illuminated.
The three actors are clearly having a fantastic time with it all and the story is cleverly narrated as well with a neat handover between the live action and what I assumed are pre-recorded bits. Great background music too although there were times when it was a bit loud to hear what was being said on stage (perhaps my fault for sitting at the back!). Very lively performances from everyone involved.
I heard about this because someone I've followed on Twitter pretty much since I joined it (@sizemore) mentioned that he'd been involved in its stage adaptation (his name's on the poster, which is gorgeous and there's an interview with him linked from his website ) - so I wanted to see what someone I (sort of) know had been up to :) And it's great!
Stops after 7 January 2012 though...
Here's another nice review that really captures the energy of the piece
@Documentally (who I also know from Twitter) has done a couple of Audioboos:
Howl's Moving Castle & Steampunk Dr Who
A nod to Hitchhikers with Susan Sheridan #howlscastle #nsfw <-- this means not safe for work, watch out for the swears :)
Belated waves to @Dr_Black who I also know from Twitter but have never met... she was there tonight at the same time as me ;) We keep missing each other!