Review: Howl's Moving Castle

by @edent | # # # # # | 2 comments | Read ~217 times.

Gobsmacked. This was the first piece of theatre in ages which left me open mouthed throughout. But let me start at the beginning....

I'd only vaguely heard of Howl's Moving Castle before I saw the Southwark Playhouse's latest show - although, to judge from the audience, it attracts fanatically devoted readers.

Entering Southwark's vault is a treat in itself. Cavernous, bare bricked arches, flaming torches on the wall, and a plain white cardboard set.

A white set. Very Peter Hall, I thought. But from the second the show started the set came alive. Highly intricate projection work, surround sound, video, music, narration, all spun together to create what I can only describe as "live action cinema."

It reminded me of the Las Vegas show EFx. Magic, mystery, and multi-media. Magical spells shot from the tips of magicians' wands - in EFx practical effects were used (fireworks, to you and I), in Howl the high-definition projectors cast a dazzling array of spells on to the set and even the performers.

The story was brisk and engaging - although some of the aforementioned devotees thought it should have been longer. The acting and directing first rate. Not knowing the story, I've no idea how much writer Mike Sizemore nicked from the original author - although I doubt she made jokes about super-luminal neutrinos - but it's hilarious and heartfelt.

My only criticisms? Working with special effects can be tough. Used too often (like the fire-demon jumping from place to place) they loose their impact - yet used only once (the surround sound dragon) feels like a wasted opportunity.

In places the music drowned out the performers - possibly due to the acoustics of the room. The actors funnel so much energy into their characters that it would be a shame to mic them up. Perhaps a slight fiddle with the volume knob?

It runs until 7th of January. Well worth seeing.

2 thoughts on “Review: Howl's Moving Castle

  1. Denny says:

    I had tickets for the first week of this, but didn't get to go in the end 🙁

  2. Sizemore says:

    Glad you had a good time 🙂

    I was pretty ruthless with the source material for a number of reasons (budget, number of actors we had, length) and in retrospect I think a slightly longer show with an interval would have been a fun way to go. Once the decision for no interval was made we had to weigh up just how long an audience could sit in the space for and I think our 70 minute or so mark gave the opportunity for a nice brisk performance.

    As you can imagine the tech side of things created more than a few headaches. Thankfully we have a wonderful team who moved Heaven and Earth to get everything working properly. The space itself also threw up a few unique curve balls - acoustics especially. I know that mics for the actors was considered, but apparently being directly under London Bridge left the danger of them picking up cab radios 🙂

    The whole endeavour was ridiculously ambitious, but I guess that was one of the things that drew me to it. Keep an eye on Davy and Kristen - they'll top this in 2012. Also looking forward to Dan becoming stupidly rich and famous 🙂

    Thanks again for taking time out to write a review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.