Tom’s Midnight Garden
11 December 2012 – 19 January 2013
Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
On Saturday 15th December, 2012, I went to the Bloomsbury Theatre, London to see the Birmingham Stage Company production of ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’, an adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s classic story of a young boy who travels back in time into a secret garden.
This was an excellent way for young children to be introduced to live theatre although I would say the suggested age of 4+ is a little young to understand, given the complexities of the story. The majority of the young audience on Saturday ranged in age from a front-row group of Brownies to a smattering of college students, all of whom seemed enthralled by the production in spite of the obvious maturity of the cast.
The set was very inventive, but simple. The curved walls of the house interior, with ticking grandfather clock at the centre, spiraled up to the one side, with an upper platform inside to make full use of the acting space. With very clever lighting the walls became semi-transparent during the garden scenes enabling the actors to make full use of the stage, and the grandfather clock turning round to become a large sundial added much to the illusion. Furniture was minimal with the actors themselves adapting pieces for short scenes and the use of mime instead of props was excellent. Music was live, with strolling players a clever way to add to the magic of the garden scenes. I particularly enjoyed the winter scene when the set opened out and magically became a frozen lake filled with skaters.
‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ was first published as a story in 1958 and this production keeps very much to that era in use of both language and mannerism. It was very pleasant to be able to watch a production that did not relay on special effects but allowed the audience to use their own imagination. I did note that by the end of the final scene there were a few tears, but these were mainly from the older members of the audience.
This production is at Bloomsbury Theatre, London, until 19th January 2013. The theatre is very comfortable with good views of the stage from all seats.
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