Tuesday, May 28

Tom’s Midnight Garden – Theatre by the Lake

Nothing heralds the start of Christmas like the family production at Theatre by the Lake – and this year they added some festive sparkle to the children’s classic Tom’s Midnight Garden, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.

Not a traditional Christmas story, but one loved by all ages, making this the ideal family visit to the theatre.

Director Liz Stevenson has brought some real drama to this tale, where time past and present come together on the stroke of 13 from the grandfather clock in the hall.

The characters from across time create an eerie image in a beautifully choreographed scene at the opening of the production. The minimalist set crates the moves through time and into the midnight garden with flying flowers and a greenhouse. However, it is the snowfall in the second part of this production that lights up the faces of the audience and the use of soundscapes works perfectly with this retelling of an old story.

It is hard to believe that Rose Basista who plays the young Hatty only graduated from LAMDA in 2020. Her performance as a child growing up before our eyes is magnificent. With Tyler Dobbs as Tom, the two lead characters pull off the very difficult task of being adult actors playing children beautifully. Kemi Clarke, who plays Tom’s brother, isolated at home due to measles is equally excellent – and a situation many of those in the audience will be able to relate to on a personal level! The scenes of letter writing between the two siblings are poetic and imaginatively delivered in this production.

Tom’s aunt and uncle who are caring for him whilst his brother are ill, are played with comic genius by Jo Mousely and Toby Gaffney. Their breakfast table scenes are particularly entertaining.

Keiren Hamilton-Amos and Jack Humphrey also bring Hattie’s young cousins to like with more excellent performances from child to adult. And with every children’s tale, there has to be the ‘baddie’ and Hatty’s Aunt Grace, played by Meriel Schofield is performed with a flinty, stern and unfairness that would have brought an echo of boos when she came on stage if this were a pantomime. However, Schofield gives an equally gentle, warm and loving performance as Mrs Bartholomew in the final scenes that bring a tear to your eye.

For those who love theatre and want to introduce the next generation to the magic of live performance we have all missed so much over the past two years, and want something other than a pantomime, Tom’s Midnight Garden will enchant all the family.

Tom’s Midnight Garden runs at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria until Saturday, 15th January 2022. For more information and to book tickets visit www.theatrebythelake.com

Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth

Reviewed: 7th December 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★