The Midnight Gang
David Walliams, adapted by Lou Stein
You wouldn’t want to spend time in the children’s ward of the Victorian hospital depicted in Lou Stein’s adaptation of David Walliams's The Midnight Gang.
The ward, ruled over by the strict, inflexible hand of Matron (Sarah Connolly), is visited by one of the dopiest doctors in the world and is served up for breakfast cornflakes covered in cold, stewed tea.
No wonder twelve-year-old Tom (Yossi Goodlink) is not in great spirits when he is taken there after being hit on the head with a cricket ball at St Willet’s Boarding School for Boys. What makes matters worse for him is that Matron forces him to put on what she claims is the only available nightwear, a frilly pink dress.
It is only when Matron and much of the hospital is asleep that things improve. That’s when a secret midnight gang of three other children in the ward seek out adventure and Tom following them gets to join the gang.
They are quite a sight. Amber (Tamika Armstrong), described as the mouth of the gang, has her arms and legs in plaster, Robin (Finn Walters) is temporarily blind with a bandage across his eyes after an operation, pushing Amber’s wheelchair, and George (Joe Booth) is in his pyjamas eating almost anything he can find.
Their secret supporter in these adventures is a kindly porter (Ashley Driver) who looks as if he may have slept many years in the same clothes. Also ready to help them is Sally (Chloe Stevenson) who, being seriously ill, is confined to bed.
They have a fine time till one adventure goes slightly wrong and a cleaner gets locked in the hospital shop, an adult patient is sent flying above the rooftops and the gang feel it necessary to pursue her in an ambulance that someone claims has been hijacked.
The show is all good fun, but it also deals sensitively with issues of feeling isolated or abandoned by parents, oddness of appearance and the importance of children and the most unlikely adults supporting each other.
The main adult characters with the exception of the porter seem to come straight out of a comic book. Their appearance and behaviour is deliberately cartoonish. In contrast, the children are the warm, believable centre of the story, performed very effectively by a group of five.
I am not surprised to hear that David Walliams enjoyed the production. So did the audience at the performance I attended.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna