On Friday I went to Southwark Playhouse to see Howl’s Moving Castle, featuring narration by Stephen Fry and music by Fyfe Dangerfield. Stylistically this was a fantastic production. The set was designed to act as a projector screen for the animation and cinematic imagery that were the main drivers of the production. With a cardboard construction of Howl’s castle in the centre, the stage was purposefully plain to allow the actors to interact with the projections, which they did so in a skilful and witty manner; the combination of live action with technical and well-executed visuals and voiceovers worked to perfection.
Howl (Daniel Ings) and Old Sophie (Susan Sheridan) delivered stunning performances that really brought the much-loved characters from Diana Wynne-Jones’ book to life for me. Howl was wonderfully flamboyant and exactly as I pictured him in my mind when I read the book. Also there were elements that reminded me of the (also adored) Studio Ghibli production of the same story: Howl’s coat was reminiscent of the feathers of Ghibli’s Howl-in-flight look and I think my favourite scene was Howl’s temper tantrum that resulted in a (projected) green slime meltdown after Sophie’s over-enthusiastic cleaning.
On top of the great performance, the venue itself only added to the magical darkness of Ingary – The Vault is a converted warehouse underneath the railway station and felt aptly atmospheric. The only downside for me was that the performance was fairly short (I suspect a result of the painstaking hours that must have been needed to create the visual effects) and so a lot of the story was compromised as a consequence. Nonetheless it was definitely worth watching.