Kiki’s Delivery Service at Southwark Playhouse
Kiki’s Delivery Service tells the story of a young witch and her adventures with her cat familiar, Jiji. The play begins as Kiki eagerly sets off on her own at the age of 13, as is the custom amongst witches, to find her place in the world. It is a story many people already know and love through the book and the Studio Ghibli film. But they haven’t seen it quite like this before.
What strikes the audience first as they take their seats is the set design. Constructed by what seems to be large square and triangle-shaped building blocks, the set itself opts for both functionality and metaphor as it invokes a sense of playful innocence that is mirrored throughout the rest of the performance. Some of these building blocks are later moved, unfolded and tossed around as props to great effect. Kiki herself, portrayed by Alice Hewkin, even tumbles out of one in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when her character first appears on stage.
Hewkin and Jack Parker, who primarily plays Tombo, are both particularly convincing as guileless children teetering on the cusp of adulthood. But the whole cast all seem to have thoroughly earned their place. The ensemble roles are taken on by the company, but rather than seeming sparse, the skill with which the performers morph into their many characters makes the stage feel full to bursting. Matthew Forbes’s reactions as both Jiji and his puppet master are excellent. Even when the cat prop is entirely stationery, playing the part (so to speak) of a toy, Forbes’s personification of the animal’s inner horror is a wonderful touch.
Indeed, it is similar small details like this that help make the production as funny and charming as it is, and the overall effect is that of a delightful and surprisingly poignant coming-of-age tale. Not overly complicated, but lovely in its simplicity.
Photo: Richard Davenport
Kiki’s Delivery Service is at Southwark Playhouse from 8th December 2016 until 8th January 2017, for further information or to book visit here.