Goodnight Mister Tom
Pack your tissues, this World War Two drama touches all ages
Creating a piece of theatre that amuses, moves, entertains and grips all ages is no mean feat. Yet looking around the audience – primary school kids, octogenarians and everyone inbetween, it’s clear Goodnight Mister Tom has done just that.
For the elders, the subject matter has true resonance. Set at the outbreak of World War Two (we see them all gathered around the wireless for Neville Chamberlain’s famous broadcast) the show quickly demonstrates the harsh realities of war: children evacuated to the countryside; ubiquitous ration posters; loved ones waved off to war never to return, just the dreaded telegram.
For the children, and indeed all of us, there is the gentle yet compelling story of a young boy who learns to live life to the full. Brought up in London by his deeply troubled mother, 8-year-old William Beech arrives in a sleepy Dorset village wearing threadbare clothes and a collection of vibrant bruises. Badly undernourished, both physically and emotionally, he slowly learns to read and write, trust others, make friends and discover the joy of being part of the local amateur dramatics troupe.
Just when it’s all going so well, the first half closes with the bombshell that William’s mother wants him back in London. What follows after the interval is for you to discover (although those who have read Michelle Magorian’s novel will already know) but suffice to say you’ll need a pack of tissues to get through the saddest of tragedies, and most touching of happy emotional connections.
David Wood’s superb adaptation of an already award-winning novel has been well handled by all concerned in its journey to the stage. David Troughton as the eponymous Mister Tom moves subtly from grumpy recluse to warm parent, using a believable blend of common sense and love to win our, and William’s, affections.
While the young cast (Freddy Hawkins as the timid yet blossoming William, and Harrison Noble as the loveably theatrical Zach on the night I saw it) are entirely deserving of their curtain call cheers .
Seen at Theatre Royal, Glasgow.