A Minack Production
Roll Up! for a circus of dreams with Hetty Feather at the Minack this Easter
Hetty Feather hates her cruel life at the Foundling Hospital and longs to find her true mother. Only her courage and imagination give the determined little redhead the strength to keep her hopes alive but when she encounters the glamourous, flame-haired circus performer, Madame Adeline, her dreams become dangerously entangled with the perils that lurk in the real world.
Adapted by Emma Reeves from the popular children’s books by Jacqueline Wilson, this imaginative stage version will have surprises and delights for both fans and newcomers to the story.
Hetty Feather was first performed at the Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames on 5 April 2014. It was first produced by Kenny Wax, William Archer, Novel Theatre and the Rose Theatre Kingston.
Review by Jenni Balow
The jolly jaunty circus set for the Minack's Easter Holidays production of Hetty Feather is full of fun and colour, but it is the backdrop to a sad tale of a little girl who was given to a foundling hospital when she was a baby, and just wants to find her true Mum.
The story of Hetty, written by Jacqueline Wilson, has long been a children's favourite, and is now sensitively adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, and can finally be seen at the Minack, after a two year delay because of the Covid pandemic.
The play was chosen by executive producer Zoe Curnow and director John Brolly as ideal material for their talented young bunch of academy actors and singers. They are joined by exuberant Geordie Georgia Nicholson playing Madame Adeline, Rebecca Hulbert as a warm-hearted foster mother, bossy matron in drag, Charlie Coldfield, and Cornwall's own Ben Kernow as Chino, who all share multiple other roles.
On the opening cold and very blustery night that tested not only the fluttering bunting, but an audience of excited youngsters that were nearly blown off their feet on the way to their seats, Alina Hulse played the role of Hetty with sweetness, optimism and intelligence.
She shares the roll with Roisin Bermingham in the two act production that will run until April 21. It marks a memorable Minack year - its 90th since founder Rowena Cade hit on the unlikely and very challenging idea of creating an open air theatre on a solid granite cliff that flanks Porthcurno Beach.
Alina's co-players matched her with confident well-rehearsed precision, and included Zach Batt as Jem, Marnie Cole as Saul, Harry Ladd Carr as Gideon, with other roles played by Ivy Kirk, Caitlin Dow, Rosie Gayman, Jesse Battle, Byron Ladd Carr, Amelia Acheson and Alma Sina.
The story highlights the game of chance that desperate mothers of tiny babies faced when poverty or inability to support them for whatever reason, forced them to bring their children to the foundling hospital for 'safe keeping'.
Like a tumbling tombola of chance, they picked a lottery ball out of a bag, to find out whether their little ones had been accepted. The 'lucky' children were later informed by the matron that they must "reconcile themselves to a life of constant labour". They were, or course, often horribly bullied.
But Hetty is determined to find her Mum, somehow, even when the hospital is consumed by an epidemic, a wretched coughing disease, influenza or worse, and some will die from the contagion - yes, life does have many parallels.
The costumes were by Marion Harrison, lighting by Simon Hutchings and sound by Rory Lock.
Elroy Ashmore's Victorian style circus set was a joy, as was the music of Ben Sutcliffe and Zaid Al-Rikabi of the People's String Foundation, playing fiddle, accordion, cymbals and drums, guitar, keyboard, double bass and more on stage, to provide a haunting "over the hills and far away" musical backdrop, that was very special.
By the way, the boys are busy this week - they will play a gig with special guest musicians tomorrow night at 7pm. (April 15). Ring 01736 810181 for tickets.