When young Tom arrives at the horrifying St Crook’s Hospital he discovers the Midnight Gang. The members are the occupants of the children’s ward; they are the keepers of its secrets, and makers of its mischief!
The Midnight Gang – Live on Stage tells the story of this small band of children determined to make each other’s dreams come true despite the nasty nurse keeping a close eye on them. The gang’s capers look to be its own undoing, unless some magic, or kindness (unheard of in St Crook’s), can save them.
This new production is based on the children’s book The Midnight Gang by David Walliams (which is a great book to stay up until midnight reading). It has been adapted by Maryam Master and toured by CDP Kids.
There is a certain magic in taking your child along to their first show, especially when this is a play of a favourite book, a fact well known to CDP Kids. They have been making and touring work for young people for ten years, since their first production The Gruffalo, in 2009. Company Director Andrew Threlfall says, “We know that first and early theatre experiences are critical to the future relationship that young people have with live performance.”
Author David Walliams, now in his 11th year of writing books for kids, and one of the iconic Little Britain duo, credits his writing inspiration to a young fan who wrote in, sharing a pic of himself dressed as Walliams’ Emily Howard character at a school free-dress day. Walliams was fascinated, and trusting his imagination, penned The Boy in the Dress, now a musical featuring music by Robbie Williams. His own childhood reading was kicked off when he checked out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from the library. In 2017 he was awarded an OBE, for his services to charity and the arts, a year after the release of The Midnight Gang.
Maryam Master has adapted three of Walliams’ books into plays, with The Midnight Gang – Live on Stage her most recent. I asked her what is it about Walliams books that inspires her, and she said, “I love David’s stories! They’re macabre and darkly comic. His villains are deliciously evil and we love to hate them but at the heart of every story is a brilliant young kid who triumphs despite the wicked machinations of the baddies – who are almost always adults.”
I was interested to know how his books, set in England and making references to iconic buildings and English lifestyles translated for Australian audiences. Master explained “I find them to be universal in their theme. The core message is always uplifting. Love will triumph over hate. Good over evil. Kindness is key. They tug at our heartstrings while making us laugh.” I have to agree with her. Any changes that Master has made are largely contextual, the central themes resoundingly remain.
The book itself is close to 500 pages, so how does a playwright such as Master condense this into a children’s show length suitable for a child’s attention span? “Distilling his often long, elaborate stories into a one hour show can be tricky. You have to be very economical and yet somehow keep the essence of the book. There’s also the fact that we have five actors and Midnight Gang has dozens of characters. Lots of doubling and of course some poor characters got the chop! Adaptation is a delicate art form. You have to honour the original work but also bring your own flair to the play.”
The five performers that transform this play into life are Alex Beauman as Tom, Lucy Heffernan as Sally/Matron/Nelly, Kyle Kaczmarczyk as Porter/Tootsie, Emma Kew as Amber, and Nicholas Starte as George/Doctor/Sir Quentin. The small cast create a whole world within St Crook’s hospital, filling the stage with high energy and camaraderie.
These school holidays you can enjoy the fun of the Midnight Gang – Live on Stage as it tours across QLD, NSW and WA. More information and tickets can be purchased here: https://www.cdp.com.au/midnightgang.html#tickets