One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get just tiny reviews of shows written, five sentences if no more, rather than leaving so many shows completely unreviewed as I did last year. Unfortunately I’m still having a problem with being very busy, thus this review of Howl’s Moving Castle at Southwark Playhouse is being done after the play has closed. It doesn’t matter much, though, as it was already sold out for the rest of the run by the time I saw it, so this review wouldn’t have influenced you to have gone one way or another. Anyway …
I was told my some that this show was overly ambitious and by others that it was just terrible; let it be said that my expectations were incredibly low. However, expecting a zero or one star show, I got something that was probably a one and a half star event; not abysmal, though still long at 70 minutes. I found it suffered from incoherence, which I tried to ascribe to my micro-napping through key plot points; however (I asked my companions), in fact just too much had been cut from the novel for key points to make sense, i.e. how did Sophie (Susan Sheridan) get to Howl’s Castle in the first place, and just what was the nature of her “strong magic” that was so intense it caused the Witch of the Waste (Kristin McGuire) to put her under a curse.
However, there were other problems that irritated me to the point of distraction; the acting was naff at a panto level of naffness (cape swirling is not actually a way of expressing emotion, even though Daniel Ings was giant piles of yum while doing so); characters are never convincingly done by tape recordings, and this show had TWO of them (James Wilkes as Calcifer and Stephen Fry as the house); and while projections can create a magical atmosphere (as 1927 Theatre Company proves), too often they’re a excuse for doing a show on the cheap instead of using imagination and a bit of shiny cloth and making a bit more effort. I found the projections got in the way of my stongly-honed ability to follow the lead of a good designer and “believe” in the world that was being created; instead, I was shown a vision that far undershot my own and left me disappointed.
At any rate, for once it wasn’t me apologizing for having mis-sold a production to my friends, but rather my friends muttering to each other about “maybe as good as a Dr Who Christmas special” and me feeling cheery that I’d made it out for so little money and such a small investment in time while still being modestly entertained. And now it’s closed. Hurray!
(This review is for a show seen on Wednesday, January 4th, 2011. It closed on January 7th.)