It was my children who introduced me to Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom, they were enthused after reading the book at school and encouraged me to read it too. Hailed as a modern day classic, Goodnight Mister Tom has now been adapted for the stage by popular writer and director of children’s plays David Wood OBE. It opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre last year and has now embarked on a strictly limited run at the Duke of York’s Theatre this Christmas before setting off on a Nationwide Tour.
It is the story of a young evacuee William Beech who is sent into the Devonshire countryside to escape the onset of war and ends up staying with the village curmudgeon Tom Oakley.
It is not long before we realise that the war had been the least of poor Will’s problems. He had suffered physically and mentally at the hands of his mentally ill Mother. As the book, and now play progresses we see William blossom and make friends in the country under Tom’s watchful eye in turn William teaches Tom how to love again.
It sounds twee and predictable but this is no fairytale story. The grittiness and abuse in William’s life is not glossed over which justifies the 8+ recommendation. The waiflike William was played by Alex Taylor McDowall at the performance I saw (the role is shared by 3 boys) and from the moment he stepped on the stage bruised and battered and with head bowed he oozed fragility but with the tender loving care bestowed by David Troughton‘s Tom Oakley Will’s character begins to slowly gain confidence and unfold.
David Troughton was perfect playing the recluse Tom Oakley, whose hand is forced to take in an evacuee from Deptford, however his paternal instincts soon kick in surprising himself as much as anyone. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the realisation comes that the two unlikely pair care for each other very much. The third family member is Sammy the dog, the wonderful puppet skillfully brought to life by the talented Elisa De Grey was a real highlight of the show and a joy to watch.
The rest of the cast play an assortment of villagers and William’s flamboyant fellow evacuee Zach (Oliver Loades) whose exuberant ways made everyone smile.
Directed by Angus Jackson, Goodnight Mister Tom is a heart-warming story about friendship and protection in the darkest of times, and although Christmas isn’t mentioned I heartily recommend it for a winter warmer.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
☆☆☆☆ Highly recommended
Photo Credit : Dan Tsantilis
Goodnight Mister Tom | Booking Information
Duke of York’s Theatre
St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm,
Wed*, Thu & Sat mats at 2.30pm
Tue 22 Dec & Tue 29 Dec at 2.30pm
*Except Wed 20 Jan, Wed 27 Jan, Wed 3 Feb, Wed 10 Feb at 1.30pm
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (including interval) Age recommendation: 8+