Goodnight Mister Tom takes to the stage

Olivier-Award winning adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s WW2 tale tours the UK

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Theatre preview: Goodnight Mister Tom

A young boy damaged by an abusive mother, and an elderly man who never came to terms with the death of his wife and baby – an unlikely friendship, maybe, but one which forms the heart of a heartwarming stage adaptation.

Written in 1981, Michelle Magorian’s award-winning novel follows the story of eight year old William, who is evacuated to the English countryside at the start of World War Two. There, he is placed in the care of Tom, a man in his late 60s who has spent most of his life avoiding people, in order to prevent further heartache.

‘He’s been grieving for 40 years and not entered into society,’ says David Troughton who plays Tom. ‘So he’s not very pleased about having to look after this young boy – but then his paternal instincts take over. Secretly he likes William, but he tries not to feel anything for him, in case something bad happens to the boy.’

Following in the footsteps of the novel, David Wood’s stage adaptation has also attracted plaudits, including a prestigious Olivier Award. The subject matters of abuse, neglect and grief may not be laugh a minute, but William’s life in the country – and his return to London – has had audiences of all ages moved, gripped and uplifted.

‘Michelle doesn’t pull any punches,’ says Troughton, ‘which is refreshing because we can protect children a bit too much. The appeal for adults is they see the struggle in the relationship, and children are fascinated by what happens to this young boy.’

Goodnight Mister Tom

  • Directed by: Angus Jackson
  • Written by: Michelle Magorian (book)

David Troughton takes on the titular role in a new adaptation of Michelle Magorian's war-time novel of the unlikely friendship between an evacuee and his reluctant carer.

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