Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A garden gate opening up time

tom;s mdnight garden

Tom’s Midnight Garden

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


THIS fascinating play could be a ghost story, an exploration of time travel, or a gentle tale about two children longing for friendship who meet up in a mysterious garden.

It sounds rather fanciful, which could by why the director, Dexter Whitehead, wrote in the programme: “The challenges of bringing this to the stage are endless, and for this show to really work the audience must be able to open their minds and use their imagination”.

He needn’t have worried. His skill in presenting David Wood’s adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s book ensures that everyone is carried along smoothly, comfortable in scenes where the cast appear to skate on ice during a snowfall, a gaggle of geese cause mischief and a young girl plunges from a tree.

Full marks, too, for the various eerie, candle-lit moments and incidents Tom and Hattywhen the main character, young Tom, appears to walk through the closed glass door of a greenhouse, and later through a solid wall. Clever stuff.

Will Young gives a superb performance as Tom, quarantined through measles and living with his aunt and uncle in their 1950s apartment within what had been a country house in the 1880s – 1890s, but now has no garden.

However, when the old grandfather clock surprisingly strikes 13 at midnight, he opens a door to discover a beautiful garden and develops a warm friendship with a young girl, Hatty, in Victorian dress.

Phoebe Hooper as Hatty with Tom played by Will Young

Phoebe Hooper is excellent as Hatty who copes well in her regular chats and adventures with her new friend in his striped pyjamas and dressing gown, as well as exchanges with her cousins, who can’t see the newcomer.

Both youngsters’ acting is strong and they deliver their lines perfectly, which is so important to the plot. They also receive strong support from Emily Armstrong and Gary Pritchard, playing Tom’s aunt Gwen and Uncle Alan.

Teenager Daniel Boot is impressive as Tom’s brother, appearing regularly from a first floor ‘window’ in the set, reading letters from his absent sibling giving details about the secret garden adventures.

A strong contribution, too, from Dan Holyhead as Abel, the gardener, while Mary Whitehouse is convincing as the recluse, Mrs Bartholomew, who looks after the old grandfather clock and hardly says a word until the final scenes when she reveals a touching secret which explains the whole mystery…..or does it.

Great credit is due to designer Tony Groves and his team (Sue Groves, Robert Onions, Beth Porter and Mark Natrass) for planning and constructing such delightful garden on stage, with trim green lawn, mature tree, flowers beds, a greenhouse and a rose covered archway leading out into the country. Magical.

Tom’s Midnight Garden remains open until 14.03.15

Paul Marston


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