Voted as the nation’s favourite TV judge, David Walliams is also a highly popular author and the television adaptations of his books have been a hit. In recent years, his much loved stories such as Billionaire Boy, Gangsta Granny and The Boy In The Dress have also made the move to the stage. In 2018, The Midnight Gang was adapted for the stage and performed at The Chichester Festival Theatre and now a recording of this new production has been made available to view online for a limited period. Theatre at home has become more and more common during the lockdown and this charming little show has proved to be popular family viewing.
The Midnight Gang tells the story of Tom (Cody Molko), a young boy who is brought to a strange old hospital after an accident at boarding school. He finds himself in the children’s ward, with 4 other children who never get visits from their families and who spend their days being endlessly bossed around by the child hating villainous Matron (Jennie Dale). Yet every night, they have the chance to escape the dreadful word and run away to their dreams, all with the help of the odd but kindly Porter (Dickon Gough).
Cody Molko leads the action as Tom, determined to be a part of the gang and hold on to staying in hospital to avoid going back to his horrible boarding school, and staying in long enough to make sure that Sally (Cerys Hill) gets her dream. Rafi Essex, Felix Warren and Jasmine Sakiyiama play George, Robin and Amber respectively, all children on the ward for various reasons. Along with Cerys Hill as Sally, the children are all charming and talented, each boasting lovely vocals. Each child has their own dream and it’s lovely to see how Porter helps to make those dreams come true.
Dickon Gough plays the lovable Porter, a character that proves that it’s whats on the inside that counts. With just the power of imagination, he is able to take the children on wonderful adventures and for him, nothing is impossible. With Tom as his right hand man, Porter will do anything to make a child smile. Gough brings this character to life with bundles of energy and a clear delight in everything that he is doing. Jennie Dale plays the villain of the piece as Matron, charging around the children’s ward. Imagine Miss Trunchball as a nurse and you’ll get something like Matron, child hating and chocolate loving, she’s only happy when the children are suffering. Lucy Vandi has her standout moment as Tootsie, presenting breakfast with a big song and dance number and Matt Cavendish charms as Doctor Luppers, fresh out of medical school and completely unsure about everything he’s doing. Marilyn Cutts impresses as Nelly, an elderly patient who is convinced that she is a little girl and Tim Mahendran takes on multiple roles throughout, including Tom’s horrible headmaster Mr Thews.
The music is charming, a good mixture of high energy numbers and sweet ballads. Some of the numbers, especially the one sung by Doctor Luppers about a lengthy NHS questionnaire, remind me of the songs from Matilda, similar in style and family appeal. They may not stick in your head that easily, but they fit the story to a tee and leave you smiling. The set works well with the tall imposing walls of the hospital and the window from which Matron keeps an eye on everything. It’s simple yet effective, allowing imagination to take over.
This is a show with mass appeal, with something for everyone, which makes it perfect family viewing. With a gang of charming children, all with wonderful dreams, the bumbling doctor Luppers (Matt Cavendish), the imaginative genius of Porter and Matron as the villain that we all love to hate, The Midnight Gang is a crowd pleaser. I haven’t read the book, but I remember seeing the television adaptation a while back and firmly believe that this was just the right kind of story to bring to the stage. Perfect family viewing during lockdown