phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp

Howl’s Moving Castle at Southwark Playhouse - a magical Christmas treat

23 December 2011 Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz chats to writer Mike Sizemore about bringing the epic Howl's Moving Castle to the London Stage

As a massive fan of Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle (and being a creative soul with a lively imagination) I was very excited to see how the story would be brought to life on stage at Southwark Playhouse by the dream team of writer Mike Sizemore, dynamic artistic duo Davy and Kristin McGuire and Guillemots singer and songwriter Fyfe Dangerfield.  After seeing the production, I was bursting with questions for Mike to find out how this magical, immersive theatre experience came to be…

London Calling: Howl’s Moving Castle is an enormous epic of a story, both interpreted in the book by Diana Wynne Jones and in the film by Studio Ghibli. How did you decide which scenes and characters to take from the book and the film and how to interpret them - for instance, the characters of Sophie, Howl and the Witch of the Waste?


Mike Sizemore: The tricky part was working out what to focus on. The film differs from the book, and our version ploughs its own furrow too. My first draft had a lot more of the book in it, but it's quite a dense plot with a large cast so once I knew how many actors we'd be using I had to be practical and pare it back quite a bit. Basically I focused on the love story between Howl and Sophie. And, yes, the Witch is quite different from the original character - on one level she's a spurned lover, but on another she's this outside force trying to keep Sophie from Howl that ultimately helps bring them together. Kristin then had her own interpretation on stage.


LC: I absolutely loved the projection that accompanied the imaginative and adaptable set used in the show. It was totally spellbinding and surpassed all my expectations in terms of how you would visualise the moving castle and the worlds outside the door. Can you explain the creative process?

MS: It was very much a collaboration from day one. I was asked to take part before we even had Howl in mind. Davy and Kristin wanted to follow up their smaller, more intimate work, The Ice Book, with something larger that featured a strong narrative. We discussed the stuff that they wanted to play with - life-size projections, a sense of scale, a pop-up set etc - and then the Playhouse suggested Howl. Technically, I wrote a screenplay; we borrowed cuts and dissolves from film.


LC: What kinds of challenges and opportunities did the unusual space of Southwark Playhouse create?

MS: The Playhouse offers a unique space and atmosphere, but also a few challenges. I just had to bang away on a keyboard, but a few of the things I came up with created some technical headaches. Luckily Davy is a fan of tackling the impossible. Deep beneath London Bridge is an atmospheric place to be - we incorporated the walls of the Playhouse into the brickwork of our Moving Castle and it means the audience are wrapped up in the story from the moment they take their seats.


LC: Can you tell us more about how the whole creative team worked together to bring the story to life?

MS: Davy is a madman. I'd come up with an idea and he'd roll his eyes and then go off and create it. At other times he'd have an idea for something he simply wanted to see come alive on stage and I'd find a way to incorporate it into the script. Then of course we had the rather large talent of Fyfe Dangerfield that added another element to the visuals. And a splendid chap called Jerry Lbbotson designed the sound. I sat in on a matinee yesterday and there's a moment where a dragon roars behind the crowd and I watched an entire row of children turn around looking for it.

James Wilkes' brilliant voice-work brought Calcifer to life just as much as the projections. The lighting design was also crucial because we move locations so often and with such speed; our lighting designer Tim Bray did some incredible work. Our stage manager Peta Dyce ensures that all this technical scaffolding doesn't come tumbling down on us - she controls the thousands of cues that come with the show and is running the computers at the back of every performance.


LC: How did you work together with Fyfe Dangerfield from the Guillemots to create the score?

MS: We met quite early on in the process and began to throw ideas around with Davy and Kristin regarding the mood we wanted to create. Then while he was on tour with the Guillemots I'd send him the latest draft of the script and he'd begin to send pieces that gave the cast and crew a taste of what was coming. Just before we opened I had Howl (Dan Ings) over for supper with Kristin and Davy, and we sat there waving slices of pizza in the air in time to this huge imaginary castle moving in our minds, thanks to Fyfe's music.


LC: And finally...what fantastic project for 2012 would you like to give us a sneak preview of?

MS: I think the entire team will be doing some crazy and wonderful stuff in 2012. I hope the BBC take note of all the people describing Dan Ings as the next Dr Who. Susan Sheridan, who plays the cursed version of Sophie, is returning to the role of Trillian in a very special stage version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 2012.
 
I'm already exhausted just thinking of all the projects that Davy and Kirsten have their teeth into. Same for our producer, Katherine Jewkes, and I suspect our narrator will do one or two good things too! The Playhouse will continue to champion innovative and experimental madness like ours.

Right now I'm busy on a new draft of a sci-fi movie for my management in LA and my TV show, Slingers, is moving forward. We have a former Firefly scribe (Jose Molina) on board and The Mummers just released a single that was written for it, which you can hear a sneak preview of here.


Howl's Moving Castle can be seen at the Southwark Playhouse until the 7th January, 2012. Watch a sneak peak of the show here and book your seat quick!


 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Win Tickets to a Night of Poetry & Comedy

Bang Said The Gun - Win Tickets to a Night of Poetry & Comedy

Spoken word impresarios and poetry collective Bang Said The Gun come to Soho Theatre this winter!

Mark Thomas: “I’ve got 50:1 on ‘Trump to convert to Islam’”

Mark Thomas: “I’ve got 50:1 on ‘Trump to convert to Islam’”

Mark Thomas, described by the Metropolitan Police as a “general rabble-rouser and alleged comedian”, is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and performer as well as a passionate,…

“Theatre has always been there to restore a sense of sanity”: an interview with Sam Mendes

“Theatre has always been there to restore a sense of sanity”: an interview with Sam Mendes

London Calling spoke to director Sam Mendes about the continuing success of his latest West End offering, The Ferryman, the state of the film industry…

Love Street

Love Street

Love, shamanism and life on the edge: the tragic romance of Jim Morrison & Pam Courson.

National Treasure: An interview with Michelle Dockery

National Treasure: An interview with Michelle Dockery

Following the huge success of Downton Abbey, actress Michelle Dockery swapped the politics of the upper classes for a rather grittier way of life, Stateside,…

Basic Instincts at The Foundling Museum

Basic Instincts at The Foundling Museum

An exhibition looking at the radical paintings of Joseph Highmore

Win Two Tickets to Timberlina’s FFS!!

Camden People's Theatre - Win Two Tickets to Timberlina’s FFS!!

A brand new glittering alt-drag, rock n roll eco-show for a vexed generation.

Top 5 Board Game Pubs and Cafes in London

Top 5 Board Game Pubs and Cafes in London

Board games maketh the boozer. To that end, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite drinking holes for providing dice-rolling, decision-making, piece-moving entertainment of the highest…

‘I feel totally at home in the theatre’: an interview with Charlotte Hope

‘I feel totally at home in the theatre’: an interview with Charlotte Hope

In just a few short years, Charlotte Hope's career has gone from strength to strength. Now starring in Almedia's production of 'Albion', she talks to…

A natural-born performer: Susan Wokoma interview

A natural-born performer: Susan Wokoma interview

Susan Wokoma is a Southwark-born actor and writer who rose to prominence as Raquel in the cult television show Crazyhead. Since then, Wokoma has appeared…

Most popular

Win a 3 Course Lunch for 2!

Park Chinois, Mayfair - Win a 3 Course Lunch for 2!

Hand-crafted dim sum, fine wine & luxurious Mayfair surroundings.
Win 2 Tickets to The Snow Kingdom

Backyard Cinema - Win 2 Tickets to The Snow Kingdom

Secret caves of ice, a festive frozen lake & brilliant classic films!
Win a Horror Film Goody Bag!

BFI - Win a Horror Film Goody Bag!

If you’re looking for a suitably scary way to spend your Halloween this year, then look no further.
Win a Copy of the Big Sick on DVD

Studiocanal - Win a Copy of the Big Sick on DVD

We're giving away three copies of Rotten Tomatoes' best reviewed film of summer 2017!
Win Great Music Prizes

Rhythm Passport - Win Great Music Prizes

Rhythm Passport's fantastic music give away is back for October!
Win 2 tickets to the Street Fan Exhibiton

Fan Museum - Win 2 tickets to the Street Fan Exhibiton

The Fan Museum are giving away tickets to a special exhibition.
Win 4 Grandstand Tickets

The Lord Mayor’s Show - Win 4 Grandstand Tickets

We've got a family ticket to give away to watch a spectacular, historic show.
Win Two Tickets to Timberlina’s FFS!!

Camden People's Theatre - Win Two Tickets to Timberlina’s FFS!!

A brand new glittering alt-drag, rock n roll eco-show for a vexed generation.
Win Tickets to a Night of Poetry & Comedy

Bang Said The Gun - Win Tickets to a Night of Poetry & Comedy

Spoken word impresarios and poetry collective Bang Said The Gun come to Soho Theatre this winter!
Win tickets to Ivan Putrov’s Men in Motion

London Coliseum - Win tickets to Ivan Putrov’s Men in Motion

Watch 100 years of dance in 100 minutes in this thrilling celebration of the male dancer.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!