REVIEW Hetty Feather, Wyvern Theatre, until Sunday. IF you’ve read any of Jacqueline Wilson’s books with your children, you’ll know they are just as enjoyable to adults as they are to youngsters; the kind of bedtime stories that are not so much a chore as a not-so-guilty pleasure.

The same premise can be applied to this stage adaptation of one of her most-loved books, Hetty Feather - you can take children along if you want to, but it’s only optional.

Seldom have I seen a production with quite such a talented cast working quite so hard during a frenetic two-hour show. The eight-strong line-up not only act all the parts, but also play all the music, sing all the songs, perform breathtaking circus skills, shift the props and - yes - even sweep the stage behind them.

Hetty Feather is documented as Wilson’s favourite book - quite a claim from such a prolific writer with more than 100 titles to her name - and it marks a departure from her usual tales featuring modern-day girls dealing with modern-day strife.

Hetty is a red-headed, hot-headed Victorian girl, who is given to the foundling hospital at birth and spends the rest of her childhood searching for her real mother.

Her wilful ways and active imagination land her in all kinds of scrapes, as you’d expect from a Wilson heroine, and the hard-hitting storyline follows her into foster care and back to the austerity of the foundling hospital, via a stint at the circus.

Praise must go to director Sally Cookson, who has come up with a simple working of the story, which makes clever use of ropes and silks to spark the imagination.  

But it’s the spirited Phoebe Thomas as Hetty Feather who steals the limelight, not to mention the admiration and respect of the young readers in the audience.

All credit to her and her co-star Sarah Goddard for a powerful final scene which had both me and my 10-year-old niece reaching for the tissues.    - MICHELLE TOMPKINS