Goodnight Mister Tom a perfect thought provoking mix of culture, storytelling and emotion for adults with children who wish to go on a journey.
A Play by David Wood from the novel by Michelle Magorian
The Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG
On a Thursday afternoon I and my 8 year old protégé walked up St Martin’s Lane to be welcomed in the press corner of The Duke of York’s foyer by a smiley young press assistant.
This was my young friend’s first theatre visit and from the expression on his face I could not have chosen a better venue. The Duke of York’s luxurious and lavish Victorian interiors: cream and red furnishings, elaborate carvings within the auditorium makes a lasting impression on anyone, may it be a regular or the occasional theatre goer.
The story about young William Beech (Alex Taylor-McDowall) an evacuee from Deptford is set at the beginning of Second World War. The play opens with a singing group of evacuee children marching from the train station after their arrival to an idyllic village in Dorset.
Young undernourished Tom is assigned to a reclusive widower Tom Oakley (David Troughton) who lives near the church, as per the request of William’s mother. William arrives clutching a paper bag, its contents, a bible, a rubber belt and a letter from his mother, instructing to chastise him.
It soon becomes clear why William is afraid and quivering with fear all the time, including constant panicky fright from Tom’s sheep dog Sammy.
We witness William’s sickly thin body covered in bruises and later Tom sitting by a tombstone of his beloved wife and a baby sharing his thoughts – it’s these detailed scenes and heart felt performances that stir your emotions.
As soon as the old grump Mr Tom learns that William cannot read, he sets on a mission to educate him. As the play progresses we watch this reclusive, bad-tempered old grump who is avoided by the community, regain his passion for life and place in the village community.
William finds a friend at school – Zach (Oliver Loades) who is outgoing and a cheeky fellow evacuee, a son of actors. Every time Oliver Loades appears on stage, he fills the theatre with laughter with his over-the-top performance.
The strong bond between the boy and “Mister Tom”, as William christens his new guardian, is threatened when William’s mother requests that he returns home, because she is sick.
The puppeteer (Elisa De Grey) who guides Mister Tom’s loyal dog Sammy deserves a special mention. Both I and my young protégé were absolutely mesmerised by the facial expressions of the actor and the puppet dog.
The second act opens in a grim Deptford flat with the Blitz sirens deafening outside (and inside the auditorium) and poor William is transported from happiness to misery. This is the first time we meet William’s very religious and yet abusive mother Mrs Beech who introduces baby sister to shock stricken William. Both the audience and William end up puzzled, as there is no Mr Beech. The very raw portrayal of the mentally ill woman by Melle Stewart is short but highly authentic.
Tom hasn’t heard from William since he left, despite mailing him stationary and pencils and starts to worry. Eventually he sets on his journey to bomb stricken London and finds William in poor health, looking after his baby sister. Mall nourished and emotionally bruised William is taken to hospital.
Tom breaks the law when he literally kidnaps William back to the country side. Eventually adoption is arranged and William’s simple “Mister Tom, I love you” brings the audience to tears as the curtain draws to an end.
David Wood’s script doesn’t shy away from tough issues of schoolyard bullying, child abuse, religious intolerance, death and the privations of war. Performances from the entire hard-working ensemble leave you feeling very emotional.
The play is on at the Duke of York’s Theatre London until 20th February 2016 and then tours the country with venues detailed below.
Gentlemans Butler highly recommends this multi-generational production, which won Olivier Award for best family show in the West End three years ago.
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm, Wed*,
Thu & Sat mats at 2.
*Except Wed 20 Jan, Wed 27 Jan, Wed 3 Feb, Wed 10 Feb at 1.30pm
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes
BOX OFFICE 08448717623 www.atgtickets.com/venues/duke-of-yorks/
Gentlemans Butler tip: Become a member of The Ambassador Theatre Group and receive discounts when purchasing your tickets and enjoy all the benefits
UK TOUR LISTINGS:
23 – 27 February 2016 Manchester Opera House 3 Quay St, Manchester, Lancashire M3 3HP www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester/
1 – 5 March 2016 Milton Keynes Theatre 500 Marlborough Gate, Buckinghamshire MK9 3NZ www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre/
8 – 12 March 2016 Glasgow Theatre Royal 282 Hope St, Glasgow G2 3QA www.atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-glasgow/
15 – 19 March 2016 Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre Suffolk Street Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands B5 4DS www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/
22 – 26 March 2016 Oxford New Theatre George St, Oxford OX1 2AG www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-theatre-oxford/
29 March – 2 April 2016 York Grand Opera House Cumberland St, York YO1 9SW www.atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/
5 – 9 April 2016 Richmond Theatre Little Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1QJ www.atgtickets.com/venues/richmond-theatre/
12 – 16 April 2016 Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Exchange St, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 1UG www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/
19 – 23 April 2016 Woking New Victoria Theatre The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey GU21 6GQ www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-victoria-theatre/
Booking line for all ATG venues: 0844 871 3051
26 – 30 April 2016 Bath Theatre Royal Theatre Royal Bath, Saw Cl, Bath BA1 1ET www.theatreroyal.org.uk/ 01225 448844
3 – 7 May 2016 Cambridge Arts Theatre 6 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/ 01223 503333
10 – 14 May 2016 Cardiff New Theatre Park Pl, Cardiff CF10 3LN
www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/ 029 2087 8889
17 – 21 May 2016 Newcastle Theatre Royal 100 Grey St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6BR www.theatreroyal.co.uk/ 0844 811 2121