This 2017 stage adaptation of David Walliams’ story is filled with cheeky humour and poignancy.
A lot has been made of the fact that the way in which David Walliams writes his children’s stories is remarkably similar to the way in which Roald Dahl wrote his. Watching this 2017 production of The Midnight Gang, adapted and directed by Lou Stein it is easy to see why.
Filled with a cheeky sense of humour that at times feels as though it crosses the lines, particularly with regards to how the matron speaks very aggressively to the children in some instances, The Midnight Gang is ultimately a tale of compassion and friendship that will delight audiences of all different ages.
The story follows Tom, who has landed himself in the children’s ward at the Lord Funt Hospital following a nasty accident that saw him being hit on the head by a cricket ball. Soon afterwards he discovers the Midnight Gang – a gang that makes dreams come true. But beneath the fun and laughter, this is a story of compassion and sadness as seen through Sally’s story – too ill to take part in the adventures, but eventually has a dream of her own come true.
Directed with great liveliness by Stein, it is a production that is filled with heaps of imagination and really embraces the humour as seen through the scene in which the children take a trip to the North Pole through the freezer room. Meanwhile, Tony Ross’ illustrations and Michael Douglas’ animations really capture the sheer madness of the children’s adventures – highlighted as the hospital’s oldest patient Nelly ends up flying over London, leading to a manic chase to get her down.
While the imagination is wonderful and captures the attention, it is difficult at times not to wince at the somewhat over the top language used. This can be particularly seen when George offers Tom a spare pair of pyjamas to be told by the matron “don’t be ridiculous child look at the size of you boy” to then be taken further with “your pyjamas would be too big for an elephant” feels unnecessarily cruel and feels a bit flat and uncomfortable when delivered.
This being said, there is a wonderful variety of characters that are excellently portrayed by the cast. Ashley Driver’s warm personality instantly making the Porter an immensely charming and endearing to watch, Chloe Stevenson offering sincerity and sensitivity as the extremely poorly Sally wanting to be treated like a little girl again and Tamika Armstrong as the adventurous and spirited Amber are just a few stand out performances.
This production of The Midnight Gang shows the power of compassion and understanding, bringing the story to life with great imagination. When it is over you feel surprisingly uplifted and hopeful that there is still a strong sense of feeling and understanding for those who are around us.
By Emma Clarendon
The Midnight Gang is available to watch on Youtube now .