I went to the Theatre Royal Windsor on Tuesday 21st July to watch Hetty Feather. To be honest I had no idea what it was about, so I quickly read up on it and saw that it was mainly aimed at a young audience.
My dad and I went along to watch. It was clear from the beginning that this was no ordinary show where the curtains are closed and the audience wait for the show to begin. The curtains were already open to reveal a huge circus apparatus, consisting of ropes, ladders, Aerial hoops and silks. I wondered if we were about to watch a general circus show.
Two musicians came on, they began singing and talking to the audience, they assured us that any music played during the show would be played live by them and not a pre-recorded backing track. Throughout the show they played guitar, piano, double bass, drums, percussion and much more. Sometimes I found it hard to believe that all the sound effects and changes of music were being played by just two musicians: Seamus H Carey and Luke Potter. I could tell that they were genuinely playing because I could see them at all times. They were insanely talented and very well-rehearsed. I loved the fact that they were so versatile in that they could play so many different instruments and happily change from one to the other for different songs.
The story was about a baby girl whose mother couldn’t afford to keep her, so she took her to the foundling hospital. At the foundling hospital they do a ‘lottery’, this is where lots of parents bring children who they can’t afford to keep in order to give them a better life. They then have to pick a ball out of a hat, parents who pick a black ball are immediately turned away, those who pick a red ball are a maybe, the parent who picks the white ball then has their baby inspected, if the child is clean and healthy enough they are the chosen one. The parent who was previously a maybe is unfortunately out of luck this time.
It just so happens that one of the chosen babies is a girl who the hospital then rename Hetty Feather. Hetty played by the wonderful Phoebe Thomas, narrates her life from the moment she is born. She takes you on a very emotional journey of being an orphan but then being given to a lovely foster family with 3 other children, they all believe they will be together forever. They have the same sibling rivalry as any other family and play imaginary games believing this is what life will always be.
Until one day, just before Hetty’s brothers 6th birthday, he has to be taken back to the foundling hospital where he will learn how to become a man and grow up to be a soldier. The rest of the children soon realise this devastating news is what is destined for their own future.
Phoebe Thomas (who is an adult) plays the role of a little girl from a baby up until 6 or 7. Even though you know she is not a 4 year old little girl, her energy and performance is so convincing you really can imagine the fiery young girl she is portraying. She is a fantastic actress with a very powerful voice which immediately captures the attention of the whole audience, drawing them into the story.
When Hetty is given back to the foundling hospital she is devastated to be leaving the lady who brought her up and who she called mum. She pleaded with her to stay and the whole audience wanted nothing more than for her to be able to stay there forever, you really felt for the character and couldn’t believe that children had to go through this. Hetty and her brother were given back on the same day so at least they had each other… or so they thought. They were split up the moment they arrived, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse they cut her beautiful long red hair!
It was so well acted that you wanted to go and help them yourself. What I really love, when watching a show, is when I truly believe the actors, you get drawn in and it feels like you are right there in the story with them. This is exactly how I felt with this show.
In the horrible foundling hospital there was a new maid who had a soft spot for the fiery outspoken Hetty, she would sneak her in sweets and comfort her but at this point in her life, Hetty wanted nothing more than to find her birth mother who she thought was Madame Adeline from the circus. So one day Hetty ran away to find her real mother, only to find out that she wasn’t who she thought she was. Determined not to go back to the hospital, she found herself on the streets of London on her own. Eventually the lovely maid from the hospital (Ida) found Hetty on the street and took her in her arms and told her to never ever do that to her again. Hetty was so surprised that someone truly cared for her this much.
Ida (the maid) & Peg (Hetty’s foster mother) are both played by Sarah Goddard, she was perfectly suited for these roles and had such a kind and caring motherly way about her. The characters she played were interpreted brilliantly with the kindness but also the firmness she needed to get the story over to the audience. Sarah is one of those people you can’t help but like.
The cast showed off some fascinating circus skills which were all incorporated into the story line and made it very interesting to watch.
All in all I really enjoyed this show, yes it is mainly aimed at children but my dad and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My dad said the apparatus reminded him of being at school, and climbing up the ropes in P.E.
My favourite part was when they went to see the circus and they were doing tricks on the aerial hoop and the cast were dressed as horses. The whole show was very imaginative and creative, I would definitely recommend this show to children/teenagers but also adults who enjoy creativity, circus skills and a very engaging storyline.
So does Hetty find out her real name and birth mother? You will have to go and watch the show to find out 🙂
Thanks for reading.
Love Annie x