Ian Waller and his seven year old son enjoy a wonderful and creative example of excellent story telling

Hetty Feather, you’re a star! It’s still very early in 2018, but we’ll do well to find a better piece of theatre this year than this wonderful production that’s currently delighting audiences at the Theatre Royal Bath.

For those in know, Hetty Feather is of course the creation of Bath’s own Jacqueline Wilson. Hetty’s tale follows her from being given up to a Foundlings Hospital, through her early day’s with a foster carer and then back to the hospital and beyond. The genius here, however, is the incredible creativity, energy and talent that goes into this stage adaptation, and the wonderful ability it has to totally engage its audience along the way.

From the start, it’s impossible to take your eyes of the action, from the delightful and very funny introduction by the cast’s resident musicians, to the simple but stunningly clever set, that somehow incorporates trapeze, rope and climbing skills into every element of the plot.

I do admit to being slightly worried that my seven year old son might struggle to follow the storyline, but I needn’t have been concerned. If he did struggle, it barely showed, and from early on he’d picked out his favourite characters, the sparky heroine Hetty and her adventurous foster brother Jem, and seemed to revel in their horse play and adventures.

What struck me, however, was that amongst the energy and performance, was a truly engaging piece of theatre, where you can’t help but really feel for the plights of the children portrayed, despite the fact that they’re being played by adults and spending half of their stage time hanging from ropes or swinging from silks.

Throughout, the individual performances are superb, with most actors taking on a number of roles and excelling throughout. Of course Phoebe Thomas as Hetty takes the limelight, and she really is superb, but similarly Matt Costain as Jem/Matron Bottomry and Mark Kane as Gideon just hit the mark with real skill.

This is also a production that challenges the emotions. There are genuine laughs and real sadness, all within a set that uses minimal props and costumes, with the actors often clearly visible as they change clothes to change characters.

Then there’s the musical accompaniment, all live and featuring beautiful skills and vocal harmonies.

While my son and I turned up at the theatre with no previous experience of Hetty Feather, we left as firm fans, both of a great story very well told, and a superb production.

Hetty Feather at the Theatre Royal Bath runs until 13 January.