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Tom's Midnight Garden

The Birmingham Stage Company presents

Tom's Midnight Garden

Adapted for the stage by David Wood from the book by Phillipa Pearce

Tues 15 - Sat 19 April 2014

  • Presented at Belgrade Main stage
  • Tickets: Adults from: £13.50, Children from: £9.25, Families from: £35

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Is it possible to travel back in time? Tom has always believed it cannot be done, but when the grandfather clock in the hallway chimes thirteen times, Tom is transported to a secret garden from the past. Here he meets Hatty and together these two new friends enjoy fantastic adventures in a magical wonderland. But with each new journey through time, strange things begin to happen – and Tom must solve the mystery of the midnight garden!

The Birmingham Stage Company is proud to present this classic story, following their acclaimed productions of James and the Giant Peach and Horrible Histories. If you’re looking for a magnificent family adventure, book your tickets now while there’s still time!

Running time: 1hr 45mins including interval

Tom’s Midnight Garden is recommended for all ages except children under 4 years old.

Tue 15 Apr 7:00pm
Wed 16 Apr 2:30pm
Wed 16 Apr 7:00pm
Thu 17 Apr 2:30pm
Thu 17 Apr 7:00pm
Sat 19 Apr 2:30pm Audio Described
Sat 19 Apr 7:00pm Signed Performance

“If you want real theatre, try this marvellous retelling of a favourite story!” * * * *

The Times

“At last we get a play with a superb storyline which has everything – magic, suspence, ghosts and wonder!” * * * *

The Birmingham Post

“An exquistie show for all ages!”

Angels and Urchins

An introduction to Tom’s Midnight Garden by David Wood.

At the heart of Tom’s Midnight Garden is a simple, warm story of two lonely children longing for friendship and finding each other. But Tom is living in the 1950s and Hatty is living in the 1880s and 1890s. For Tom the friendship last a few weeks; for Hatty it lasts about ten years. Their story may be simple, but it is set within a complex structure of “time fantasy”. Tom, at midnight each night, is able to go back in time to meet Hatty at various stages of her young life, but not always in conventional time sequence. His visits seem quite long in Hatty’s time, but when he returns to his own time each night, Tom finds he has only been away a few minutes.

The story combines beautifully the reality of Tom’s two lives. Is it a ghost story? Is it exploring the supernatural? Is it about the power of the human spirit? Does it suggest that an old house can retain memories of its past? Is it about time? Is it about freedom? It is about all these things. And what makes the book a classic is that it is also believable. The reader is drawn into the mystery and accepts the fantasy as plausible and real.

To adapt the book for the stage is a challenge because the two periods (the 1950s and the 1880s/1890s) are both as real as one another. Visually it would be wrong to realistically recreate one period in more detail than the other; and the complexity of changing scene speedily, say from a 1950s backyard to the equivalent 1880s/1890s garden, or from the sparse, utilitarian 1950s hallway to the cluttered, carpeted opulence of the 1880s/1890s hallway would be testing, to say the least. It might be possible using the sophisticated techniques of projected slides or stage revolves, but even these would be far too cumbersome for the basically simple, human story being told.

I believe the solution is to be found in simplicity. Both periods must be recreated non-naturalistically in terms of scenery, yet naturalistically in terms of costume. A basic, non-specific set is required, featuring different levels to help suggest the bedroom, the cupboard, the treehouse, the greenhouse, the “Steps of St. Paul’s” tree, the sundial wall, the bridge, Ely Cathedral Tower. Dominating the set should perhaps be the two constant factors in both periods – the grandfather clock and the doorway leading to the backyard/ garden; perhaps only the doorframe is necessary. Some scenes will take place on the main stage area, using basic props and, when necessary, furniture. Similarly, the horse and gig could be imaginatively created. It should be possible for the actors to move all the way round the set in vision, to facilitate journeys and chases in the garden. Imaginative use of lighting could suggest the changing seasons and locations, going from interior to exterior and back and forth in time.

The story should develop smoothly, without any necessity for complex scene changes. This will involve narration, a shared storytelling convention, whereby the acting company tell the story as well as act it out; some of the ensemble will play more than one role. Part of this storytelling technique will involve Tom writing (and reading aloud) his letters to his brother Peter, at home with measles. In this way, some of the episodes from the book, especially those set in the 1950s, need not be fully-realised “scenes”, rather snatches of dialogue or voices from the shadows. It also means that descriptions of the settings will be verbal rather than realistically visual.

Music and sound effects will be important to give atmosphere, tension and emotional highlighting, rather like underscoring in a film.

Several animals feature in the story, such as the Melbournes’ pet terrier, the geese and the wren. When I began work on this adaptation I believed that these could all be created using inventive puppetry. Productions may profitably explore this possibility. But I now consider that the suggested minimalist style of the production favours imagining all the animals, using sound effects to suggest their presence. If the director feels this won’t work for Pincher, the terrier, perhaps an actor could play him, or a puppet on a leash could be manipulated by the Melbourne boys – but this may feel out of key.

Mime may well be used to help illustrate activities like skating, and also the magical ability Tom discovers in himself to pass through closed doors.

Because they are from different times, Tom and Hatty can never touch; and Tom, when in Hatty’s time, cannot touch or pick up objects.

Afternoon in Lady Herbert's Garden with the cast of Tom's Midnight Garden

Posted by anon on 15th April 2014

Exclusive photos of the some of the cast from Tom's Midnight Garden in Lady Herbert's Garden Read more

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