I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
The idea that fictional characters can take on a life of their own takes on new meaning in HOME'S Christmas show. The play is based on Cornelia Funke's best-selling fantasy novel, Inkheart. It has been adapted for the stage by Stephen Sharkey and HOME'S Artistic Director Walter Meierjohann, who also directs the play.
Katherine Carlton as Meggie. Photo by Graeme Cooper.
The night opens with the narrator (Kelly Hotten) sitting on a mountain of books. Meggie (Katherine Carlton) is a feisty 12-year-old bookworm who finds that characters from stories can come to life. She lives with her bookbinder Father Mo (Paul McEwan), her mother having mysteriously disappeared. They are visited by a fire-eater called Dustfinger (compellingly portrayed by Andrew Sheridan) who brings dire warnings. Mo, who knows the truth behind the warnings, decides that it's time for a swift escape.
Andrew Sheridan as Dustfinger. Photo by Graeme Cooper.
The three journey to the south of France to stay with Meggie's eccentric book-collecting aunt Elinor (vividly brought to life by Rachel Atkins). However, the house is not a safe hiding place.
Two of the characters who translate most successfully to the stage are the comical, mafioso-type villains Basta (Darryl Clark) and Flatnose (Griffin Stevens). Like the best double acts, they are inseparable, despite being constantly annoyed by each other.
Griffin Stevens as Flatnose and Darryl Clark as Basta. Photo by Graeme Cooper
The denouement of the play's action centres on whether the author, Fenoglio (played by Kern Falconer), is in control of his characters or whether it's the other way around. The search for Meggie's mother gives the story extra poignancy.
The action is complemented by highly imaginative set design and a backdrop of graphics which help to maintain the production's forward momentum. The designer is the Berlin-based French designer Stéphane Laimé.
Inkheart's message is that words are what we are made up of and how powerfully books impact on our imaginations, as well as what we, as readers, bring to them. It is also a potent reminder that although villains, like Capricorn, are great to read about, they are not so much fun to meet in real life.
The way that the book works on different levels, and the play brings another level to it, does not prevent it from being a fun night at the theatre for adults and children alike.
Inkheart is suitable for everyone aged eight or older.
Paul McEwan as Mo, Kern Falconer as Fenoglio, and Katherine Carlton as Meggie. Photo by Graeme Cooper.