This lovely musical based on David Walliams’ children’s book is filled with fun and mischief.
Originally seen at the Chichester Festival Theatre back in 2018, Bryony Lavery‘s wonderfully spirited adaptation of David Walliams’ book will be surprisingly comforting to children who have to spend any amount of time in hospital.
In fact, this production was originally streamed by The Umbrella Rooms to children in a variety of hospitals including Great Ormond Street and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester and from watching this lively production, directed by Dale Rooks, it is easy to see how watching it could provide some comfort.
Set around the creaky and somewhat gloomy Funt Hospital in London, we follow the exploits of a gang of children whose adventures really begin after midnight as they try and make their individual dreams come true. But in order to do so, they have to first escape the attention of the scary Matron who rules the children’s ward with military strictness, making clear her disdain for the children in her care.
Having never read the book, I can’t say just how faithful it is to the original story, but given the wonderful flamboyancy of the characters – in particular, the adults who are all distinctive including Tootsie the outgoing lady who brings the children their breakfast and the Porter who wants to help the children with achieving their dreams. Bryony Lavery’s adaptation is constantly funny but filled with touching moments of poignancy – such as when the gang try and help make Sally’s dream a reality.
Throughout it all, the children take centre stage and the production highlights the strong bond between all of the characters, combined with some delightful childish humour that will go down well particularly with younger audience members watching at home. Of course with any children’s show, an element of imagination and magic is key in order to draw them completely into the story – which this production has in heaps. From the way in which the North Pole is recreated in a fridge freezer or the way that Nelly floats away attached to balloons, there is plenty to capture the imagination.
Meanwhile, the music and lyrics by Joe Stilgoe combine cheeky playfulness with more sentimental numbers and are adorable to listen to – but it is difficult to say that any are particularly memorable. Yet, during the moments in which they are performed there is still a great energy to them that really helps to push the story forward.
The performances from all of the cast are fabulous. From Jennie Dale’s delightfully nasty but funny performance as Matron to Dickon Gough’s kindly Porter – there is a great diversity of personalities that are brilliantly brought to life. The younger cast members also deliver charismatic and confident performances that really carry the story through.
Overall, if you are looking for some family friendly theatre to watch online then give this funny and touching production a go – there is definitely something for everyone to be found in it.
By Emma Clarendon
The Midnight Gang is available to watch until the 29th May.