Review - The Midnight Gang: a celebration of friendship, love and acceptance
Alex Beauman, Nicholas Starte, Kyle Kaczmarczyk, Lucy Heffernan and Emma Kew
The Midnight Gang
Adapted by Maryam Master from the book by David Walliams
Directed by Susanna Dowling
Presented by cdp Kids
QUT Gardens Theatre
Season: 12 – 21 December. Duration 55 mins No Interval Bookings: http://www.gardenstheatre.qut.edu.au/whats-on/2019/midnight-gang.php
David Walliams is perhaps best known for his portrayal of various comedic characters in the popular UK television series Little Britain, however since 2008 he has been the author of a number of bestselling children’s books, some of which have been adapted for stage, including The Midnight Gang.
Twelve year old Tom unexpectedly finds himself lonely and lost in the children's ward of St Crook's Hospital, away from his family and at the mercy of evil Matron. Tom feels like he'll never leave, but his fellow young patients have other ideas. They might be stuck in hospital, but their imaginations can take them anywhere as The Midnight Gang. Each night when the clock strikes midnight, The Midnight Gang go on a series of amazing journeys as they turn the hospital into the places they've always wanted to go and make dreams come true.
This excellent adaptation is brought to life on the Gardens Theatre stage by an ensemble of 5 adult actors portraying with gusto all the characters – from the four children of the Midnight Gang (Tom, Sally, Amber and George) to an evil Matron, a hunchback, a camp kitchen cook, and various doctors, patients and schoolteachers.
I was impressed with this production right from the beginning. The play opens with the rather loud entrance of Tom (Alex Beauman) being wheeled in on a hospital trolley by a hunchback named Porter (Kyle Kaczmarczyk). Tom has been hit in the head with a cricket ball and therefore has to stay in the Children’s ward of St. Crook’s hospital to recover. St. Crook’s is not the nicest hospital to recover in, it is desperately in need of a makeover and the Children’s ward is run by a very nasty Matron (Lucy Heffernan) who is more interested in her rules being followed than the welfare of her patients.
Here Tom meets his fellow ‘inmates’ Amber (Emma Kew) who is in a wheelchair with two broken arms and legs, George (Nicholas Starte) who is recovering from eye surgery and therefore can’t see, and Sally (Lucy Heffernan) who is very ill and is confined to her bed. He discovers that Amber and George with the assistance of Porter are part of the Midnight Gang, whose mission each night is to bring to life a sick child’s wish.
The beauty of this production is in how each of the characters stories are brought to life through a series of wonderfully crafted and acted scenes- from Amber’s Winter Wonderland, through George’s dream to fly (one of the funniest scenes in the play) to the gangs’ determination to fulfill Sally’s dream of living a full and happy life. The way this last wish is accomplished is absolutely magical.
The ensemble of five actors is to be applauded for their outstanding work in intelligently portraying both the children as how we expect children to be and the adults as how children expect adults to be, and all with a sense of wonderful fun and high energy. Although there are plenty of hi-jinx and bodily function jokes for kids, there are also some lovely scenes of much deeper content which these actors handled with aplomb, and the target audience was never spoken down to.
Looking like a cross between an ancient run down hospital ward and an old train station platform, the set was, quite simply, perfect, in its functionality and use of space. Torches and green hospital divider curtains on wheels were used to great effect for transitional scenes and set changes. All props used in the children’s scenes looked exactly like they had been made by children creating with their imaginations using all manner of materials, and, in one scene in particular, the best use of toilet rolls I have ever seen.
This play is not just about the power of the imagination, but is a celebration of friendship, love and acceptance and handles what can be the difficult subject of child illness in a very positive way. I would recommend this production for both children and adults alike.