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Kiki’s Delivery Service at Southwark Playhouse – Review

Tom Greaves, Anna Leong Brophy, Alice Hewkin
Tom Greaves, Anna Leong Brophy, Alice Hewkin – Photo by Richard Davenport

Kiki’s Delivery Service is most commonly known as a 1989 animated film produced by the acclaimed Studio Ghibli, which was an adaptation of the 1985 novel by Eiko Kadono. The novel has now been adapted again as a play by Jessica Sian at Southwark Playhouse, directed by Kate Hewitt. Having previously seen the Southwark Playhouse’s excellent production of Howl’s Moving Castle, another novel previously given the Studio Ghibli treatment, expectations were high for this production.

The plot is straightforward enough, a 13-year-old which is leaving home to make a life for herself in a new town, and is accompanied by her talking cat, Jiji. Kiki’s magic seems limited to being able to fly and talk to animals, but the story itself isn’t actually about witches or magic, as Kiki’s journey is all about finding your own path in life and making good connections with other people.

And what a delightful journey it is. The small cast of six actors are outstanding – all of them take on multiple characters with fast changes and strong personalities, apart from Alice Hewkin who plays Kiki only. She’s a very sweet likeable character, and when she messes up you genuinely care for her.

But let’s be honest here, the star of the show is Jiji, the talking cat. He is played by actor and puppeteer Matthew Forbes, who brings Jiji’s personality to life both in puppet and in his own body. There’s a marvelous short moment when the puppet is moved away from him and Forbes remains in character, clearly fretting about what’s about to happen to ‘him’. Jiji also somewhat interacts with the audience, which is delightful.

The space is beautifully used with great lighting effects (snow and rain with an animated look) and clever props. The look and feel are clearly inspired by the film version, which makes sense as Kiki’s black dress and red bow has become iconic and can be seen as cosplay all over the world.

In a time when there is a lot of discussion about whitewashing in the industry, it was great to see such a talented and diverse cast. I enjoyed watching every single one of them perform, they were on sparkling form and seemed to be having as good a time as us in the audience.

All in all a magical evening, with a great story brought to life on stage in a clever, engaging and charming manner, not one to miss if you’re looking for a family friendly show to see over Christmas. Kiki’s Delivery Service is showing until January 8th.

5 Star Rating

Review by Tori Jo Lau

Kiki is a 13-year-old witch and, as tradition dictates, it is time for her to leave home and family to make a new life for herself. Equipped with her ability to fly and accompanied by Jiji, her faithful feline companion, she sets out to find a place where she can use her powers for the greater good and that one day she might call home.

A magical tale of growing up and finding acceptance, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a story for everyone aged 7 and up.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is adapted from the bestselling and award-winning book by Japanese author Eiko Kadono. The book has previously been adapted into a live action film and most notably an award-winning animation by Studio Ghibli.

Southwark Playhouse presents the world premiere of
Based on the book by Eiko Kadono.
Adapted for the stage by Jessica Siân. Directed by Kate Hewitt.
Thursday 8 December 2016 – Sunday 8 January 2017


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