The Southwark Playhouse’s production of Kiki’s Delivery Service directed by Kate Hewitt was an ambitious, energised and heart warming production that captured the magic of the award winning book by Eiko Kadono and famously the renowned Studio Ghibli animated film. A tale of a young girl who embarks on a journey away from home to take up her role as a town witch. We see Kiki, played by Alice Hewkin, learn valuable lessons along the way as she sets up her own delivery service - to the shock of her ‘city by the sea’ - only wishing to be paid in kindness for her favours. It was the love of Studio Ghibli films that drew me to this production, the eager anticipation in seeing whether it was possible to translate the unbridled imagination and creativity that is so prevalent in Studio Ghibli classics. Translating all of that ‘fantastical magic’ into a ‘black-box’ theatre space is no small feat. The cast achieved this with distinction, with Hewitts simplistic stage consisting of only movable boxes and a multi-level platform above the stage, which gave the necessary space for creating the impossible.
Alice Hewkin brought kindness and warmth to the role of the naïve young witch, her performance was elevated by a vibrant ensemble cast responsible for keeping the pulse of the piece racing with slick scene changes and often time defying costume switches. Matthew Forbes with an almost show stealing performance as Jiji, Kiki’s feline companion, operating the disdainful puppet with immense skill and focus that left the audience delighted at his many bemoans. Tom Greaves and Anna Leong Brophy showcased a heart breaking mother and father saying goodbye to their only child. Greaves in particular experimenting with a host of hilarious accents and costumes to differentiate his characters, bringing energy and strength to each and every one. Jack Parker’s Tommo, like his fellow cast members was bright and youthful and played the yearning love interest fantastically. Paksie Vernon’s performance as the single mother whom befriends our heroine was joyous and rooted in truth, special congratulations to her. When the production finished and only six returned to the stage for bows I was left in shock and awe of their creativity and craft - leaving me wondering where the rest of the cast had gone, credit truly to the direction and execution. A special hurrah must go the (K-pop-esque) scene-change dance which left the older members of the audience howling at the wonderfully cheesy routine. While this production could be construed as slightly too ‘sugary sweet’, the masterful staging, rousing score and beautiful projections made this a truly magical piece of theatre which took risks and served as a endearing family friendly production. - ★★★★☆Patrick Riley