Based on Michelle Magorians 1981 classic, the uplifting story of Goodnight Mister Tom is brought to life in a charming stage adaptation by David Wood, directed by Angus Jackson.
We begin in a peaceful Dorset village in the home of elderly recluse Tom Oakley, played by David Troughton. The show opens when Tom is abruptly forced out of his isolated ways and assigned frightened and bruised eight year old evacuee William Beech. As the months pass Tom and his dog Sammy form a close friendship with William, a bond that neither of the pair knew they could make. When William’s mother suddenly demands her son back in London to take care of her, we are hit with the cruel reality of his abusive life back home.
The production set is full of sentimental charm as the heart of Dorset is created by stylistic 1940’s posters with captions such as “Eat Less Bread” and a large painting of the village church seen from Tom’s window. The items in Tom’s house portray the simple life he has on his own, with his dog Sammy as his only real friend. Sammy the border-collie is played adorably by Elisa De Grey who controls the delightful dog puppet, as well as barking and growling to create Sammy’s personality. The play also features other quirky puppets including birds and a little squirrel. The biggest set change comes when William goes back to his mother in London, the platform on the stage raises like a drawbridge to reveal the dark dingy flat that he and his mother live in, a complete contrast to the happy life William was having in Dorset.
The cast are all fantastic individually. David Troughton takes on the role of Tom, who’s lived by himself since his wife died in childbirth forty years before. David’s portrayal of Tom as a grumpy old man is conveyed excellently, we can really see that behind Tom’s hard face there is a man with a heart of gold behind, and eventually he lets that show. Melle Stewart plays the kind teacher Annie Hartridge, her performance is so warm that she comes across unrecognisable when she becomes Williams cruel and religion obsessed mother. There are three boys that alternate the role of William and three others who play Zach, the night I saw was Joe Reynolds and Sonny Kirby who both completely stole the audience’s hearts. While Joe brought vulnerability to the role of William, Sonny brought vibrancy and energy to his portrayal of Zach- bringing laughter to the audience every time he was on stage.
While watching the show you are pulled through a range of different emotions. The charm that comes with Goodnight Mister Tom is the sweetness and laughter between the relationships of the characters, but there are also the heart breaking scenes that moved me to tears. The production is highly uplifting and something that the cast and the crew should be happy to be a part of. A wonderful, warm piece of British theatre for all ages. I urge you to get tickets for the tour while you can.
Reviewed by Ellie Devonshire
Photo: Dan Tsantilis