Kiki's Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse review

Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse

An utterly delightful Christmas treat for us this year was seeing this stage adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse in London.

The 1989 animated Studio Ghibli movie has enchanted children and adults. This version is notionally adapted from the source novel by Eiko Kadono, but fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s famed anime will not be disappointed.

The story follows the same basic plot – Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who moves out of home, as is the witches custom. She settles in a new city, not yet skilled at magic or life, and sets up a special delivery service using the one bit if magic she is good (well, ok) at – flying on her broomstick.

The play, while notionally based on the book rather than the anime, will not disappoint Studio Ghibli fans.

The familiar characters of Kiki’s parents, Tombo, Osono – and most welcome of all – Jiji the cat are here. But there is no Ursula – and no airship for that particular dramatic denouement. This tale has one of its own.

While this story (and show) is for all the family, I’ve always assumed it must have special resonance for girls. Here is a 13-year-old girl, utterly confident it’s her time to leave home. She has superpowers, an admirable work ethic, and is basically an entrepreneur creating her own small business. She also ends up saving the day, to the delight of her fellow city dwellers.

The small cast and intimate venue are used to great advantage. The ‘stage’ is actually an area in the middle of the auditorium. The cast take on multiple-roles, with simple but effective accent and wardrobe changes. They also help with the stage management, moving props and scenery around as the play unfolds. It’s a great example of teamwork to show children.

The big question – how do they make Kiki fly? Well, I don’t want to spoil this, but the approach is varied, versatile and completely right.

Of the cast, Alice Hewkin is appealing as Kiki – and while all the cast are wonderful, with their own great moments in the play, I have to single out Matthew Forbes as Jiji the cat.

As is familiar to fans of the Studio Ghibli anime, the most important relationship of the story is that of Kiki and her trusted companion Jiji the cat.

Jiji is brought to life in a similar way to the Daemons in the National Theatre’s production of the His Dark Materials trilogy a few years back – with a performer operating a puppet and speaking lines. But here no attempt has been made to conceal the smartly dressed actor.

Forbes, as well as skilfully manipulating the puppet, puts in a wonderful vocal performance as Jiji. Played as a sardonic American in the English language dub of the anime, here he is more of a sarcastic butler, with the feline sounds morphing into occasional Kenneth Williams-esque delivery that he makes all his own.

Our 4-year-old daughter was completely enchanted by this wonderful adaptation, and I am so happy that this was her first theatre experience. For a delightful Christmas show for the family, I urge you to seek this out. It’s well worth the trip.


Our daughter of course went to see it in her full Kiki gear 🙂


This stage adaptation of ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ is on at the Southwark Playhouse in London until Jan 8 2016. 

 Kiki's Delivery Service play Southwark Playhouse poster

Photos of the play by Richard Davenport. c/o Southwark Playhouse.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin), Dir: Hayao Miyazaki, © 1989 Eiko Kadono – Nibariki – GN

We attended the show as paying members of public.

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