This production, based on Eiko Kadono’s novel and adapted by Jessican Sian, owes a lot to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time but it is a fun, and times moving, piece of theatre.
Kiki (Alice Hewkin) is a witch, her mother (Anna Leong Brophy) is a witch and her father (Tom Greaves)teaches the basics of being a witch. Being a witch, who are paid in kindness for doing deeds, seems to be a comment on women in society and it is great to see a play puts women at the forefront of a story, in a world where male leads still dominate artistic works.
The story concerns Kiki, who because of her age (13), now has to literally fly the nest to a new town as a there can only be one witch in a town/city. There are puberty parallels’ and there is no doubt that this a popular and enduring story but it is not the sole reason it is a great production. Kate Hewitt’s direction has been inspired by its Studio Ghibli 1989 adaptation with Simon Bejer’s pastel coloured set.
With a cast of six, with all except Hewkin playing multiple roles KDS reminds me of the soon to be closing in West End The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. There are obvious comparisons; the lifting of the lead character, the stunning animations by Phoebe Halsted (which are incredible and make the small Southwark space seem anything but) and the story of an outsider. Kiki isn’t accepted by the town she lays her broom and only has the support of Jiji, her faithful feline companion, played fabulously by Matthew Forbes and Osono (Paksie Vernon), a heavily pregnant single woman and the town’s baker who is the only resident to show her kindness.
There is also a boy (because when you are 13 there is always a love interest) called Tombo (Jack Parker), who yearns to know she flies. I haven’t seen the film or read the book but the structure to this is a bit looser than most plays. There isn’t one story as we follow Kiki on her journey and despite it’s 75 minute running time these various arcs/sketches don’t feel like filler.
I hope Kiki’s has a strong future, it is the perfect family show but even for spinsters like myself there is nothing childish about this work. It keeps young and old entertained and I would love to see it thrive in a bigger space