What are we talking about?
A new play of Diana Wynne Jones's novel – which was also made into a successful animated film by Studio Ghibli – is being staged in the Southwark Playhouse's atmospheric (and suitably nippy) space under the arches of London Bridge Station.
The play of the book: Howl's castle moves into the theatre.
The novel has been adapted by Mike Sizemore and is directed and designed by the multimedia artist couple Davy and Kristin McGuire. Her background is in dance – she's previously worked for Cirque du Soleil – while his is in film and multimedia theatre; they recently produced a music video for "I Must Be a Lover" by the Guillemots. It was obviously a happy collaboration – Fyfe Dangerfield, frontman of said band, has composed the original music for Howl's Moving Castle.
You'll hear the voice, at least, of Stephen Fry, who is the narrator of the piece. The cast includes Daniel Ings (understudy for Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in Frankenstein recently), Belt Up Theatre's Jamie Wilkes, and co-director Kristin McGuire herself.
The early buzz
The London listings website Spoonfed says it "looks like light, magical relief", while Time Out suggests that "the jewel in the already enticing production's crown are the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry, who has lent his recorded voice". Talking to the Stereoboard website, Dangerfield deemed the Southwark Playhouse a "really cool little theatre" and explained: "I've been really wanting to get stuck into something that's not songs."
It's Dangerfield's first move into scoring music for the theatre, although with the Guillemots he has frequently been involved with film festivals, providing live soundtracks to movies. Writing the music for an adaptation for the stage of a book that is most famous as a film is perhaps a natural home for the media-hopping musician then.
It's great that...
The show also promises "pioneering" projections, which should help them get round plot details such as fire demons and, well, moving castles.
It's a shame that...
Whatever technical wizardry they throw at it, the show may struggle to compete with the magical animation of the film.
There are surely enough different hooks here to draw a sizeable audience.
Howl's Moving Castle is at Southwark Playhouse (southwarkplayhouse.co.uk), 28 Nov to 7 Jan.