The Gatehouse pub has hosted many a production in its upstairs theatre and this British musical is another success to add to its list.
With a book and lyrics by Kevin Hammonds and composed by Charles Miller, When Midnight Strikes tells the story of a crumbling couple, Jennifer and Christopher West, who are hosting a New Years Eve party to celebrate the coming of a new millennium. Behind the welcoming façade is a hostess whose heart is breaking after discovering her husband is having an affair and she is even more drawn into conspiracy when discovering the mystery mistress is one of their guests.
This production is directed by Grant Murphy and Damian Sandys, who use limited space and budget to their advantage. With one set of a cocktail style apartment, it is not over complicated and allows you to focus solely on the characters and their struggles (with help from the lighting from Tom Boucher). The musical direction (Matt Ramplin) subtly incorporates the band as if they are party guests freely allowing them to come and go when needed. In the intimate theatre the seating is extremely close to the stage which can, at times, be overwhelming but also makes you feel as if you're intruding in the celebrations as much as the unwanted mistress is.
When Midnight Strikes is very much an ensemble production which houses bitterness, love rivals and satirical characters, each one having depth and compassion behind the personas they portray and having their own time to unravel who they are instead of who they pretend to be. Miranda Wilford's heartfelt portrayal of Jennifer was a stand-out performance of the night, particularly her emotion in "End of Days".
Other stand-out performances were by Tash Holoway (Rachel) and Sarah Harlington (Twyla). With a stronger and more intense second act than the first, the entire cast have strong vocals and the range of character personalities keeps the show interesting and the audience in suspense wondering which of them is the mistress; however when revealed, it comes as an unsuspected shock.
In all, When Midnight Strikes is an empowering show which reminds you to put yourself first and stop pretending to be someone to please another.