Tom Gates Live – Olympia Theatre – Review
by Lesley-Anne Whelan
Wednesday 2rd June- Saturday 6th June
Tom Gates, for those not in the know, is the title character of a collection of best-selling books for children by author and illustrator Liz Pichon. Tom is a 5th class boy who catalogues his triumphs and troubles in school and at home with his band mates, school friends, family and grandparents. He loves to draw and his books are full of his special brand of doodles. He is also in a rock band called “Dogzombies”. We’ve just started to get into this series of books at home so it was perfect timing to see that Liz Pichon had joined up with the award winning team behind the stage shows of Horrible Histories (a firm favourite with my two kids) and Gangsta Granny to collaborate on a stage show featuring her beloved characters.
While not an adaptation of any one of the books in particular, but a completely new story, the team that have brought Tom Gates to the stage have been very faithful to the style of the books. Using extremely clever animation of Pichon’s illustrations, the stage comes alive with Tom’s world and particularly his doodles. There is also a mini rock concert (of sorts) running throughout as “Dogzombies” play their back catalogue of songs – “Chips” being an absolute earworm of a tune.
A few of the talented cast are called upon to double up as different characters, and those that do so are often playing polar opposite to themselves. Ashley Cousins who plays Tom’s arch nemesis Marcus Meldrew is also Tom’s roller skating loving granny. Amy Hargreaves puts in a pitch perfect performance as Delia, Tom’s teenage angst ridden older sister and is also his hard working school friend Amy. Such is the transformation that younger audience members might not even notice, and I have to say that I didn’t realise Delia and Amy were played by the same actress!
Both the children and I were mesmerised by the whole performance and Seb (age 6) thought it was “really good!” which is extremely high praise from him. It can be difficult to find a play that will be a hit with a divergence of age groups but there was a good mix of ages in the audience from children who are being read the stories by mum and dad, to the more avid older readers. It really is one for the whole family. Fans should note that the author herself will be in attendance over the weekend- so you might want to bring your well-loved copies of the books along with you or buy some from the stall in the foyer.