Great children’s theatre adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s much loved book ‘A Little Princess’ at Theatre N16, the tiny upstairs space at the Bedford in Balham. Slightly surreal watching a children’s show on a Sunday night with a pub full of football fans downstairs, and a church congregation on the first floor below the theatre at the top – A REAL community venue for ALL!
The novel has been well adapted and imaginatively directed by the graduates of Durham University, and enhanced by an evocative and very lovely original score written by Flick Chilton who is a student at Guildhall School of Music. The piano underscore was never intrusive, with beautiful vocal arrangements and harmonies in the songs by the company. The young cast of accomplished actors have to play a wide variety of characters both younger and much older than themselves and they rise to the challenges very well. The use of puppetry also adds another imaginative dimension and they used the space at N16 to maximum effect, also interacting with the audience with ease.
A Little Princess explores what real friendship and love is, especially in times of hardship, poverty and neglect, and how hope can transform the darkest of times. Sara Crewe is an exceptionally kind-hearted girl and has everything anyone could wish for which makes her very popular with almost everyone at Miss Minchin’s Seminary for Girls. Intelligent and imaginative she always sees the best in people and in situations, which enables her to survive when all her material riches suddenly vanish with the death of her beloved father and those who only valued her for what they thought they could selfishly get, viciously turn on her. Miss Minchin forces Sara to wear rough clothes, work as a maid and live alone in a cold attic.
Izzie Price brought Sara Crewe to life with a wonderfully committed performance that was direct and moving, standing up for herself and others, also against bullying whether by adults or peers. She has a luminous stage presence which is very engaging. Hattie Knight is wonderful as the down-trodden maid Becky in a heart-felt performance that is completely truthful and believable. India Footer is affecting as Ermengarde who tries so hard to do the right thing and help Sara when her fortunes change. She is no fair-weather friend. Louisa Mathieu managed to convey the duplicity and shallowness of the older soulless Miss Minchin whose nastiness towards an orphaned charge is shocking.
Tim Blore and Tom McNulty had to play several roles, all of them older then themselves, in fact much older which by lesser actors may not have worked. But they were played sincerely and honestly. Beth Greenwood played a feisty ‘nasty’ Lavinia Herbert, and then demonstrated great versatility as a very touching Rose, transforming from a rough, desperate beggar girl literally saved by the kindness of Sara. Through one single act of giving up her bread rolls to the starving beggar girl, Sara unknowingly sets off a chain of events that redeems Rose, restores the faith of The Baker woman, beautifully played by Emma-Louise Howell, and ultimately feeds hundreds of starving people in the future. Such a powerful message for young audiences to take home with them. Sara’s life is turned around once more by yet another act of kindness as she seeks to return a lost monkey to her unknown next door neighbour who unbeknown to her, was her father’s best friend and has been searching for her. A beautiful end to a dramatic and moving story.
Highly recommended for all ages. Congratulations to Foxglove Theatre on this pre-Edinburgh short run. Engaging multi-faceted performances from a talented cast in a much loved heart-warming story where good wins through and selfishness and nastiness rebound back on the perpetrators. A Little Princess will go down a storm at Edinburgh Festival Fringe for sure.
Review by Catherine Françoise
3rd – 7th July
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 9th – 29th August
Sara Crewe: Izzie Price
Miss Minchin: Louisa Mathieu
Becky: Hattie Knight
Ermengarde/Jessie: India Footer
Lottie/Bakery Woman: Emma-Louise Howell
Captain Crewe/Mr Carrisford: Tim Blore
Lavinia/Rose: Beth Greenwood
Mr Barrow/Mr Carmichael: Tom McNulty
CREW:Director: Steffi Walker
Producer/Composer/Pianist: Flick Chilton
Assistant Producer: Ben Foster
Stage Manager: Edward Cherrie
Public Relations Officer: Izzie Price