Upon hearing that I Capture The Castle had been turned into a musical at The Watford Palace Theatre, in Clarendon Road, I have to admit I felt a little apprehensive about seeing the stage adaptation.

Although she is mostly known for writing the classic children’s story One Hundred And One Dalmations, Dodie Smith wrote her first coming of age novel in 1948, with a plot about first love that still bears relevance to audiences even now.

I Capture The Castle inspired generations of young girls – including myself – to want to pen their own bestselling novels that were taken straight from the intimate pages of their journals and so I waited for the show to begin with very high expectations.

However, as soon as protagonist Cassandra (Lowri Izzard) sang the words “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…” I knew the next couple of hours were not going to be a disappointment.

Set in the bohemian England of the 1930s, the story is narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who captures the daily life of her eccentric family in her diary.

They live in poverty in a decaying castle in the middle of the countryside and Cassandra’s father (Ben Watson) is a famous writer struggling to write a follow-up to his best-selling novel Jacob Wrestling.

He buys the castle at the peak of his success with the hope of finding inspiration to write there, but instead they all find themselves needing to sell the furniture in order to buy food.

Cassandra also lives with her older sister Rose (Kate Batter), who feels lonely in the castle and longs to meet a rich man, as well as step mother Topaz (Suzanne Ahmet) and gardener Stephen (Isaac Stanmore), who is in love with Cassandra but she does not feel the same way.

Their lives are changed when wealthy American brothers Simon and Neil Cotton inherit the nearby Scoatney Hall and become the Mortmain’s new landlords.

Rose sees an opportunity to marry her way up in society and escape the castle but Cassandra genuinely falls in love and soon discovers just how heart-breaking unrequited love can be.

Lowri Izzard gave an outstanding performance as she portrayed her character as innocent but also perceptive at the same time.

The naivety of Cassandra contrasted with Rose’s manipulation of the people around her in order to get what she wanted in life. Kate Batter gave a humorous performance that was almost hysterical at some points, particularly as her idea of a perfect life involved having luxurious peach towels rather than the shabby green ones she used in the castle.

The two American brothers lacked charm in comparison to the gregarious female lead characters, but they also lacked appeal in the book too.

All the actors did put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the music, which was composed by Steven Edis and was influenced with swing, tango and folksong elements. However, the lyrics didn’t add anything new to the show, as they mostly incorporated lines from the actual book.

It was hard not to constantly compare the book to the play throughout, but the show managed to keep the essence of the original story while also giving the ending a modern twist, as well as being visually spectacular as the castle itself was made up of a huge scaffold of chairs and ladders.

I Capture The Castle, Watford Palace Theatre, Clarendon Road, Watford, WD17 1JZ, until April 22, 7.30pm and 2.30pm, details: 01923 225671, watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk

Star-rating ****