Review: Magical Night at Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House

Performance: 13 - 31 December 2011
Reviewed by Sam Gauntlett - Tuesday 13 December 2011

ROH2 'Magical Night'. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Reviewed: 9 December

When I was a child, like many others, I imagined that my toys came to life as soon as I turned my back and would spend hours plotting ways to catch them in the act, wishing that one day my inanimate friends would allow me a special glimpse into their secret world. Sadly, they never did.

So the child in me is transported to a place where dreams come true when I settle down, amongst a lively audience of parents and small children, to witness just such a world in Magical Night.

A beautifully crafted set brings us right into the centre of the action: a children’s pastel bedroom, complete with “outer space” wallpaper, scattered toys and a pair of bunk-beds. It’s evening and we’re in Megan and Jason’s bedroom, where they are playing with their toys. The peaceful scene doesn’t last for long however, and when they start to fight, Jason’s toy chimp (Chimpy) loses his tail in the struggle. The children’s mother (played for two brief moments by Lorena Randi) intervenes and puts the children to bed, and soon, with their bug-shaped nightlights glowing, the siblings are fast asleep, oblivious to the colourful activities that unfold around them.

First a pink, glittering, toy fairy (Yvette Bonner) emerges from a wooden trunk and sings about her powers: with a three tap motion and a quick spell, she is able to bring the other toys to life. Armed with a sparkly wand she wakes a handful of characters one by one: Chimpy, played by Thomasin Gulgec, is still minus a tail, but is great at tumbling and propelling himself off the walls, Alessandra Ruggeri’s Tumble Tot is a larger than life-size baby that sucks a dummy and stumbles a lot and Sir Green Knight, played by Greig Cooke, strides around the floor in chain-mail, brandishing his sword with pride. WeiChun Luo is impressively supple as Fire Flame, a scarlet, lycra-clad super-heroine and the Mighty Robot, played with good comedic timing by Owen Ridley-DeMonick, is an impressive sight as he emerges from a large poster, dry ice swirling around him. But of course, their secret japes are interrupted when the children wake.

With a lively score from Kurt Weill, the story zips along, with plenty of scrapes and laughs along the way. Nicole Clachar and Rudy Talboys, as Megan and Jason are a delight to watch, with both managing to portray a playful, inquisitive nature that makes the characters believable. The costumes, designed by Gabrielle Dalton, are bright and fun and really bring a sense of each of the toys’ physicality to the stage, while the set, designed by Rachael Canning, has detailed touches, such as the dressing gown on the back of the door, and the toy tidy hanging from the wall, that make us feel as though we really are inside the children’s bedroom. Throughout the performance, the children in the audience whoop with delight and cower in fear and a stunt where an evil Witch appears to have her head slammed twice against a hard surface gets the biggest laugh!

Magical Night is a simple, yet timeless story, one which children will lose themselves in and the performance leaves me feeling very festive as I walk into the cold December night, and the bustle of late night shoppers in Covent Garden. A mannequin in a shop window catches my eye and I’m sure she winks! I wonder what she will get up to later when all the shoppers are tucked up in bed…

Continues until 31 Dec

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