As night time is a world where adults can't exert their forces, night is a massive source of inspiration in many children's classic works of art. In Peter Pan, the children fly out the bedroom window to Neverland; in Tom's Midnight Garden, the hero travels back in time at night. And in Magical Night, set to a classic score by Kurt Weill, we have a children's bedroom taken over by toys that come to life at the midnight hour.
This could be seen as a phenomenal trip for a 6 year old, the average age of children in the audience, to take in. To kick things off, we had a Grammy Award-winning Soprano sing a rather sombre opera piece as Pink Fairy. Then, in beautiful defiance of the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent generation, no street dance but ballet and contemporary.
But the kids, as they say, loved it. Grilling a four year old in the row behind, plaudits were given to Chimpy, played by capoeira trained Thomasin Gülgeç (also a black belt in karate). His tumbles and monkey movements met with riotous giggles from the young audience. A little reviewer friend was also "very scared" when it looked like the witch was going to eat him for supper. That little children respond to these very high forms of art – a new arrangement of Weill’s music first premiered in Berlin in 1922 provides the only sound – shows we underestimate them at our peril.
There were excellent physical characterisations from each of the living dolls. Lorena Randi as the witch Sarah Good, showed the bad girl is the most fun, totally stealing the thunder of Pink Fairy with her twist on the beautiful ballerina, all twitching toes and claws in place of graceful hands. On a mission to eat Chimpy, slavering and licking her black lips, she drops the ball when Mighty Robot waltzes her into submission. Then there is Tumble Tot, excellently made life by Alessandra Ruggeri who flallumps (there is no better word for it) out of a toy box, bending and rolling on the floor as if her spine were elastic.
Although the story seemed a little thin on the ground, with only Chimpy's near miss in the supper pot as a narrative high point, it was enchanting. It's an argument too that very young children respond to spectacle and fun, not the journey of the story. This is high culture meets children's entertainment making for indeed a magical night.
Magical Night is at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, until 31 December 2011.
By Belinda Liversedge