Here's the review that NODA gave us of Tom's Midnight Garden. We're delighted to receive such a glowing report of our show!
It is always a pleasure to visit Lane End and your latest production proved to be no exception; our London Councillor, Jacquie Stedman, and I received a very warm welcome and enjoyed the opportunity to talk to Director James Wood about his take on this well-loved children’s story.
Having recently re-read the book it was very fresh in my memory and James certainly showed an impressive ability to both design the very clever set and to direct the piece in a way which brought out all the nuances of the well told story. The music playing both before the start and during the interval was well chosen and, I think, taken from the film of the book? It certainly helped to set the atmosphere.
Sound and music design, Stephen and Raymond Medhurst – who also acted as overall Technical Director – alongside James, did an excellent job. Probably the most important thing to get right in this particular piece is the striking of the clock and this was very well timed. The rest of the sound was well controlled and the geese were very amusing. The cast whispers rising and falling in volume were very atmospheric.
Although essentially a children’s story, this production was done in such a way that children in the audience were not patronized and adults were drawn into the wonderful imaginative mind of a young boy without there being any hint of ‘childishness’
The set was excellent with good lighting, designed and operated by Stewart Mason, especially the lighting on the clock and the changes which indicated different times of day and place. Also notable was the lighting to indicate a river. Your set was an object lesson in how to design and build something which is unfussy yet can double, believably, as a walled garden (the scene of most of the action) and which also has to represent many other locations -- all without tedious and mood-breaking changes which too often interrupts the flow; I particularly liked the use of the double hung door which enabled swift exit from the house and entry into the garden. You are fortunate to have so many talented set builders and decorators under your SM, David Harnett too.
The use of props was excellent and Tom Everitt had certainly located a variety of period items, the newspaper looked like one from the 1950s with no colour to be seen for example.
Costumes, Eve Berry and Tish Marshall, were in both the required periods throughout. Congratulations. I am not sure who provide the wigs though? Make up is credited to the cast so who supplied Mrs Bartholomew’s wig? I know I am nit-picking at what was otherwise a superb production but this wig was not very good. It didn’t quite sit correctly on her head and looked too big and shiny. I do know someone who knows a lot about the use of wigs on stage and she tells me that this is an area which appears to be easy but can be fraught with problems.
This is a play which, strictly speaking, requires children in the leading roles but such was the quality of the acting that I forgot that the parts of Tom and Hatty were played by adults. Both Jake Everitt as Tom and Kathryn Head as Hatty displayed accurate childish speech patterns and movements so well; the slightly knock-kneed, shorts-wearing Tom simply was a young boy and, Jake, your expression of delight when you first entered the garden was absolutely marvelous. Kathryn, your ability to give us a beribboned be-pinafored little girl with slightly staccato speech and show her developing into a confident young lady as she aged, but which Tom did not see, was beautifully done. You both reacted well to each other all the time and the pairing worked very well indeed. I loved your skating moves too!
Hatty’s three boy cousins, James, Edgar and Hubert, played by Ritch Tysoe, Peter Rose and David Harnett, also had to move as young boys but then develop into grown men. You all succeeded very well and again your childish speech patterns altered subtly as you aged. Peter and David, you also doubled as a tour guide and Barty and again you changed your way of speaking to reflect this very well.
The other ‘child’, the confined-to-bed Peter, was played by Luke Bond whose recognition that Hatty was a woman not a young girl was very effectively done. I also liked the fact that you were constantly in character for long periods when on stage but not actually part of the action.
The 1950s adults, Aunt Gwen, Catherine Everitt, and Uncle Alan, Paul Brown, were well characterized and very believable. Sheila Keatinge’s performance as the elderly Mrs Bartholomew was well timed and slightly sinister when dealing with the clock but then at the end you changed in such a way that the audience could believe that Tom suddenly recognized the young Hatty.
The Victorian adults, Aunt Grace, Kath Gill, Abel, Dave Bowden, and the two maids Susan and Bess, played by Libby Beck and Lexy Jackman, were totally in character throughout. The contrast between Tom’s caring, fussy Aunt Gwen and Hatty’s cold, unfeeling Aunt Grace was well expressed.
This was a delightful and very charming production, sensitively directed and acted and you are all to be roundly congratulated.
Judith Watsham Regional Rep NODA London 11 and 11A