The force and power of a child’s imagination against adversity has long been fodder for writers. Frances Hodgson Burnett and Edith Nesbit spring to mind when discussing HookHitch Theatre’s This Was The World and I Was King. Set during World War I the story revolves around a family separated physically and emotionally by the horrors of war. While their father is on the Western Front the family stay with their paternal uncle. There they indulge in imaginative adventures spurred on by stories their father sends in his letters from the Front. As the trauma on the front gradually seeps back home their lives are further disrupted. Puppetry, original music and excerpts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses accompany the narrative giving it wonderful depth.
In such a well-traversed genre it can be unusual to find a story that evokes such a familiar genre but does it so well. The play makes excellent use of the magic of childhood but also manages to include adult storylines as well. The subtle contrast between the naivety and innocence of childhood games and the difficulties of adulthood adds depth. Combined with the framing device the charm in this tale is apparent throughout.
The music is wonderful. It complemented each scene wonderfully yet could easily stand-alone. Seriously I would buy a copy of this soundtrack, with its beautiful melodies and powerful harmonies, without ever having seen the show.
The acting throughout is superb. The cast believably portray young children without coming across as clichéd or overdone. Laura Trundle switched seamlessly between child and adult bringing the narrative to life, as her grown up counterpart reflected on the memories of youth. Laura Hannawin effortlessly evokes the spirit of childhood.
Though subtly evoked the themes throughout are poignant. A parent’s fear of disappointing their child, the gradual loss of innocence in growing up and the power of imagination are all explored. However, I almost wish that these had been delved into a bit more. That it had been a bit longer. Essentially that there had been a bit more of this great show. Though delightful and endearing, it stops just short of astounding.
With so many different elements working together it would be easy to become overwhelmed but HookHitch’s production flows together effortlessly. The inclusion of music is seamless and the puppets are wonderful. This Was the World and I Was King is a remarkable piece of theatre, wonderfully evocative and beautifully produced.