The Olivier Award-nominated production of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather is set to visit the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 19th to Sunday 24th January as part of a major national tour, following a sell-out 2015 West End season at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre.
ROLL UP and join Hetty on her escape from the Foundling Hospital. TREMBLE as she faces Matron Stinking Bottomly, THRILL as she discovers the squirrel house and Tanglefields Travelling Circus. GASP as she endures a night locked in the attic. QUAKE as she braves the scary streets of Victorian London and CHEER as she overcomes all in the search to find her real mother and a true family of her own.
Featuring circus skills and aerial artistry, the tale of plucky Hetty Feather is thrillingly brought to life on stage by director Sally Cookson and playwright Emma Reeves, who also adapted Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker series for television. The production also features original songs and live music by Benji Bower. Produced by, and first staged at, the Rose Theatre Kingston in 2014, Hetty Feather transferred to the West End where it enjoyed a sell-out run and was nominated for an Olivier Award. The production now tours to Bath as part of a UK tour, following its successful return to the West End last summer.
Hetty Feather is the first in a series of books, written by Jacqueline Wilson and published by Random House, which includes Sapphire Battersea, Emerald Star and Diamond. Wilson’s latest Hetty Feather novel Little Stars was launched last October. The series has been hugely successful, not just in the UK but also internationally. Last year, Hetty Feather was adapted as a new 10-part television series for broadcast on CBBC.
Novelist Jacqueline Wilson was born in Bath. One of Britain’s most popular authors, selling over 38 million books in the UK alone, her most successful creation is the Tracy Beaker series. In 2002 she was awarded the OBE for services to literacy in schools and in 2008 she became Dame Jacqueline Wilson. In the same year she became the Foundling Museum’s first Coram Foundling Fellow. From 2005 to 2007 she was the Children’s Laureate. Her 100th book Opal Plumstead was published in 2014, followed by her most recent titles, The Butterfly Club, Katy, and Little Stars, in 2015.
Many real children experienced childhoods similar to Hetty Feather’s, growing up in the Foundling Hospital. Jacqueline Wilson was doing some charity work for the Coram Society, who work closely with London’s Foundling Museum, when they suggested that she should write a book about a Victorian Foundling. Hetty Feather sprang to Jacqueline’s mind, with her story starting at the Foundling Hospital and set in London in 1876. The Foundling Hospital was founded in 1741 as the first home for abandoned children. Thomas Coram started this ‘Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Children’ in 1739. This was the first special children’s charity in the UK, and over two and a half centuries it has rescued more than 27,000 babies. It continues today known simply as Coram, helping children who are alone, at risk, marginalised in school or without a real home.
Phoebe Thomas plays Hetty Feather, reprising her role from the UK tour and West End run. She began performing as a child and was nominated for a BAFTA at the age of 8 for her first ever screen performance. Her theatre credits include The Life and Times of Fanny Hill at Bristol Old Vic; and in the West End, Little Women and Annie Get your Gun. For television, Phoebe’s numerous credits include playing Maria Kendall in more than 150 episodes of Holby City; The Armada; Death in Paradise; Vera; Outnumbered; Sea of Souls; Teachers; and Inspector Lynley. Her film credits include Lady Godiva and Permanent Vacation.
Matt Costain reprises the roles of Jem and Matron Bottomly. His theatre credits include Warhorse and The Birds at the National Theatre; Macbeth, Pericles and Man Falling Down at Shakespeare’s Globe; and The Tempest at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He has appeared in numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company ranging from Wendy and Peter Pan to Richard III. He performed in Treasure Island in the West End, and Papa Please Get The Moon For Me at Bristol Old Vic. Matt also works as a director and movement director.
Nikki Warwick reprises the role of Madame Adeline. Alongside theatre she has worked extensively in aerial circus, cabaret and physical theatre. Nikki was joint artistic director of Puppetual Motion, a successful circus-cabaret company. She has worked with many circus-theatre companies in the UK and Australia.
Sarah Goddard reprises the roles of Peg and Ida. Her theatre credits include Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano for Oxford Shakespeare Company, and Cinderella at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Nik Howden plays Saul. His stage work includes Fly Eddie Fly at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, and Stick Man at Edinburgh’s Spiegeltent. His television credits include Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who, Grandpa in my Pocket, and the role of Stan Laurel in BBC4’s film Stan. Mark Kane plays Gideon. His stage credits include The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare’s Globe; Cinderella at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory; Stick Man for Scamp Theatre; The Ugly Duckling for Travelling Light; and Julius Caesar at the Barbican.
Musicians Seamas H. Carey and Luke Potter complete the company. Seamas plays piano, accordion, and double bass. He has toured internationally, and is a founder member and joint artistic director of Bristol-based theatre company ‘Silly Boys’. He is also music lecturer for young people, and regularly accompanies silent films with live piano. In 2013, he played the role of Moomintroll at Bath’s egg theatre in Moominland Midwinter. Luke’s theatre work includes Cinderella at London’s Unicorn Theatre, and To Kill a Mockingbird at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He was Associate Musical Director for The Story Giant at Marine Theatre and Composer for Outpost for Green Ginger at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory. He played on Ergo Schmidt’s album 2 and Joss Stone’s album LP1.
Playwright Emma Reeves has worked with Jacqueline Wilson on a number of projects, notably writing the television adaptations for the Tracy Beaker series. Her stage adaptations include Carrie’s War in the West End and on tour, and Little Women and Cool Hand Luke in the West End. For television, her credits also include Young Dracula, Sadie Jones, Belonging, Doctors, and Half Moon Investigations. In 2011, she was nominated by the Writers’ Guild for Best Children’s Television Script for Tracy Beaker Returns: What You Don’t Know, and in 2013 for The Dumping Ground. In 2012, Tracy Beaker Returns won the RTS Award for Best Children’s Drama with Emma’s script Money. Her 13-part series, Eve, was transmitted on CBBC in 2015.
Director Sally Cookson is an Associate Artist at Bristol Old Vic, where her many productions have included Jane Eyre at the National Theatre; The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and Aesop’s Fables. Her on-going collaboration with Travelling Light Theatre has resulted in her directing over ten productions for the company, including the Olivier Award-nominated Cinderella, Boing!, Bob The Man on The Moon, How Cold My Toes, and Papa Please Get The Moon For Me. For Bristol’s Tobacco Factory, her credits include 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Her other theatre work includes We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, in the West End and on tour; Varmints for Sadler’s Wells; and, Stick Man and Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales for Scamp Theatre.
Designs for Hetty Feather are by Katie Sykes with original music and score by Benji Bower and additional composition by Seamas H Carey and Luke Potter. Aerial direction is by Gwen Hales with lighting design by Aideen Malone and sound design by Leigh Davies.
Hetty Feather appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 19th to Sunday 24th January. Tickets are on sale at the Box Office on 01225 448844 and online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Photos: Helen Murray