Half-term means time for children’s stories to return to the stage once again at Cardiff’s New Theatre and this year it does not disappoint.
The Birmingham Stage Company, who have helmed collaborations with classic children’s writers such as Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman, brings to life Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden.
It tells the story of Tom who is banished to his aunt’s country house for the school holidays after his brother is quarantined because of measles.
Whilst at the house – which the theatre company portrays well with a few quaint backdrops and spiral staircase – Tom discovers a clock which strikes a thirteenth hour and opens up a secret garden with a whole host of friends.
Based on the author’s experience of spending long periods of her childhood ill and alone, the viewer gets a sense of Tom’s loneliness and desire to play with other children.
Both the cast and audience were full of energy; children who were old enough to be engrossed sat on the edge of their seats with expectant faces.
Unlike some productions for children, the play may not have delivered for adult audiences. Even though the story was not predictable, the dialogue was at times dull and no one character seemed to stand out.
But a small quartet of string musicians provided beautiful accompaniment to the magical lighting and colours on stage, and the relaxing music was something for adults – no doubt keen for a moment of peace – to enjoy. The acting was excellent and perfectly pitched to an audience as young as four.
Despite a lack of props, the cast drew upon invisible objects to tell the story, something which would sit extremely well with children’s own vivid imaginations. Despite a quick pace and great storytelling, many of the younger audience were fidgety and at times un-enthralled by the events unfurling on stage.
Perhaps this is a failure on the part of the theatre company for pitching the play at too young an age as for the older children the play seemed truly captivating.