TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN: Philippa Pearce (adapted by David Wood).
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Full information: www.birminghamstage.com
Runs: 2h 15m: one interval: till 12th April.
Review: Alan Geary: 8th April 2014.
Ideal fare for all ages? Doubtful.
It’s the late 1950s. Young Tom, staying with an aunt and uncle, befriends Hatty. We and he soon realise though that she and those around her are figures of the late Victorian era. It’s a well worked out plot, like a Priestley time play only better, as Tom is transported back and forth between his present and the past. And it isn’t the same point in the past; much of the poignancy is drawn from the fact that during the action Hatty grows into a young woman whilst Tom remains a boy.
The periods are nicely realised. Fifties and late-Victorian costumes are authentic. But it’s a dingily-inconsequential set demanding real stretches of the imagination for the varied scenes. The often over-jaunty live music never seems to hit the right mood; and the musicians, all of whom are drawn from the cast, are visually over-intrusive – some of the tinies – there were a lot in on press evening – might not appreciate that they’re not part of the action.
As Tom, David Tute avoids over-doing the gawky movements and pulled faces (Ed Thorpe, as bedridden Peter, doesn’t entirely). Caitlin Thorburn, an attractive Hatty, captures the transition from child to young adult.
With the suggestion that she’s unwillingly childless, Kate Adams make Tom’s Aunt Gwen into a pathetic figure. Uncle Alan (Tom Jude) is a hen-pecked comedy husband with a dash of the axe-killer in horn-rims; his Abel the gardener is a convincing Bible-puncher. Helen Ryan is wholly right as Hatty’s Victorian Aunt Grace, and, especially in the final scene, as Hatty the old lady.
It’s doubtful whether this is ideal children’s fare. Both periods in the play are, by now, equally periods. And the spooky sound effects, otherwise splendid, might upset some. A lot of adults as well as children will be fazed when it comes to the Book of Revelation.
But it might encourage people to read or re-read the Philippa Pearce book, one of the most moving pieces of children’s literature ever written. Anyone who ponders on the bitter-sweetness of time, of change and memory, and the pain of growing up will be touched.
Tom: David Tute.
Hatty: Caitlin Thorburn.
Mrs Bartholomew/Aunt Grace: Helen Ryan.
Aunt Gwen/Susan: Kate Adams.
Uncle Alan/Abel: Tom Jude.
Edgar/Peter: Ed Thorpe.
James/Barty: Ifan Gwilym-Jones.
Hubert/Understudy: Joe Stuckey.
Cathedral Guide/Understudy: Alice Bullard.
Director: Neal Foster.
Designer: Jacqueline Trousdale.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Nick Sagar.
Music: Jak Poore.