The Midnight Gang at the Chickenshed Theatre
Based on a children’s book of the same name by David Walliams, The Midnight Gang is a technically impressive and unfailingly energetic romp, set in a Victorian-era hospital and managing to deal light-heartedly with topics as heavy as child mortality.
Adapted and directed specifically for the Chickenshed Theatre by artistic director Lou Stein, the play follows five young residents of the children’s ward on their night-time adventures and flights of fancy. All parts were acted by long-time members of the company, which prides itself on an ethos of diversity and inclusivity, reflecting the play’s major theme of belonging and togetherness. All The Midnight Gang’s core conflicts are resolved through the acceptance and accommodation of difference; a message that is hard to take issue with and certainly an important one for the children in the audience.
All the actors involved gave impressive and committed performances, with Sarah Connolly as the cartoonishly sinister matron standing out, in particular, for never faltering in her expression or mannerisms. However, by far the most impressive part of the production was the masterful set and costumes, designed by Keith Dunne, who has been working with Chickenshed on and off for over 15 years. These aspects were not only suggestive of the story’s Victorian hospital setting but also incorporated elements of funhouse, fairground and gothic to create an immersive and delightful spectacle. Minor details such as the glow-in-the-dark graffiti on one character’s casts added an especially thoughtful touch.
The play is reminiscent in some moments of a Roald Dahl story, particularly through the inclusion of a host of nasty or incompetent adults, and in others of a pantomime, complete with crossdressing nurses and slapstick humour. While there were titters throughout from the packed audience at the verbal jokes, it was the sight gags, such as one of the main actors Yossi Goodlink hobbling around on false legs, that got by far the largest reaction. Either way, there was enough of both to maintain the interest and attention of a group of young children for the whole two-hour run time, which was surely no mean feat.
The Midnight Gang is at the Chickenshed Theatre from 19th July until 6th August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.