The Little Boy Who Lost the Morning
Susan Mulholland, with music by Katie Doherty
Northern Stage, Newcastle
Northern Stage is one of only two theatres in the North East which offers an alternative to pantomime for the under-6s. It's a wise move, for pantos are usually too big, too overwhelming and too long for this age group. Performed in the intimate setting of a reconfigured Stage 2 and lasting an hour, the theatre's offering always hits the target, providing what will certainly prove to be a memorable theatrical experience for the youngest children.
This year's show, The Little Boy Who Lost the Morning, the fifth from writer Susan Mulholland, is no exception. With a hero (or heroine, it varies from year to year) with whom the children can identify, a quest to be undertaken, a little music, lots of gags the audience can enjoy, some audience participation and a little bit of sparkly magic, she captures the kids' imagination.
The Little Boy of the title doesn't like going to bed, so he decides to stay up all night. He pretends to be asleep to fool his parents but, without realising it, he has chosen the longest night of the year. Has he lost the morning altogether? He's afraid he might have and so sets off, accompanied of course by his long-eared teddy bear Sidney, on a quest to look in all the darkest places he can think of. On his way he meets all kinds of people, including two cats who are having an argument about who sings best and he has to be the judge in their competition. There are astronauts and comets and, in particular, the Mam in the Moon - yes, that's right: he misheard! - who, like all mams, keeps an eye on him, and offers many cups of tea.
With the tale being told by the Shadowies who live in the darkest place he knows, the cupboard under the stairs, the audience - children and adults alike - loved it.
The set is very simple: boxes of different sizes, a dustbin, a plastic wash basket and other household items are formed into all kinds of configurations by the company of four - Christopher Foley as the Little Boy and Dylan Edge, Rachel Gay and Abigail Moffatt as everyone else. It's imaginatively directed by Mark Calvert and cleverly designed by Andrew Stephenson.
Northern Stage also presents a family show in Stage 1. This year it's The Wind in the Willows and if it can hold its audience as The Little Boy Who Lost the Morning does, the theatre will have two hits on its hands this Christmas.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan