Review: Howl’s Moving Castle, Southwark Playhouse ***

Howl’s Moving Castle is an enchanting tale suitable for viewers of all ages. Based on the fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones, writer Mike Sizemore has created a compelling script that captures the story of the ostensibly evil, superficial Howl and his blossoming relationship with the lovely Sophie, who has been put under a spell by the jealous Witch of the Waste and so transformed into a meddling old lady. Can Sophie – unwittingly – win Howl’s love and defeat the powerful, embittered Witch of the Waste? Or is Howl destined to be forever roving in his magnificent castle, preying on the innocent and bathing in his own vanity?

Akin to Beauty and the Beast, this gothic tale is immaculately presented, prompting comic genius – especially from the energetic Daniel Ings as the conceited, flamboyant Howl – as well as merriment all round, and, judging by the number of shiny-faced youngsters in the audience, truly is aimed at spectators of all ages.
Whilst the acting is good across the board (although admittedly carried in placed by Ings), perhaps the most intriguing element of this production is the fantastic white cardboard set, which is highly versatile, delineating both inside and outside of the castle. Coupled with the amusing projections that frequently pop up to the voiceover of Stephen Fry, who narrates, the set is dazzling, and helps to fill an otherwise sparse stage.

Howl’s Moving Castle is both panto-esque and sincere, funny and touching, jolly and sinister

Never a dull moment, this production is directed by artistic couple Davy and Kristin McGuire with care and precision, whilst still allowing the actors some room for improvisation in places. A bit like dressing up as a wide-eyed youth, Howl’s Moving Castle is both panto-esque and sincere, funny and touching, jolly and sinister. With some fine acting and a clever set, the two main merits of this production, this show provides a very pleasant way to spend an evening whether young or old – or somewhere in between.

*** (3 stars)
Runs until 7th January 2012
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