BWW Reviews: TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, April 15 2014
The Birmingham Stage Company is held in fond regard by families across the country for their high standard of productions suitable for all ages. Their latest show, nearing the conclusion of its national tour, is Tom's Midnight Garden which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry last night.
Based on the book by Philippa Pearce and adapted for the stage by David Wood, the tale follows Tom who is sent to his Aunt's to stay after his brother catches measles. There is nothing much to do in the flat but every night the grandfather clock in the hall - belonging to the landlady Mrs Bartholemew - chimes 13 times at midnight and Tom is transported to a secret garden back in Victorian times where he meets Hatty.
There is nothing not to like about the piece. Some children/family shows can be a bit sickly and overdramatic at times but the balance is struck nicely by the cast and creatives. Neal Foster's direction is great with elements of physical theatre throughout. His vision works brilliantly alongside Jackie Trousdale's partition style set. It appears very basic to begin with but can be lit like a gauze so you can see the garden behind or not if the setting is house-based. Levels are created by the spiral staircase and ladders either side of the grandfather clock, or sundial if in the garden. There are two separate occasions when Tom walks 'through' a closed door providing magic for the children. The first instance through the greenhouse door was particularly impressive to my eye! Jason Taylor's lighting encompasses the vision too and location is never doubted.
The cast are all actor-musicians which is becoming increasingly popular these days as it's very effective. Jak Poore's compositions are wonderful and have an almost eerie quality which Nick Sagar's sound design ensures is showcased well. There is no weak link amongst the cast, all worked brilliantly as an ensemble. David Tute as Tom has just the right amount of boyish charm and wit and therefore is a perfect lead. Hatty is captured by Caitlin Thorburn wonderfully too and in some ways she had a more difficult job as she ages throughout the show's duration. Other lovely performances come from Tom Jude as Uncle Alan/Able and Helen Ryan as Mrs Bartholemew.
Tom's Midnight Garden is at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry til Saturday and the Arts Theatre in Cambridge from the 22nd April.