David Wood’s adaption of Goodnight Mr Tom, at the Richmond Theatre, is a touching and well crafted story about love and community in a time when the world was being poisoned by hatred and fear.
I would imagine that most of us, in some iteration or another, have encountered Michelle Magorian’s novel, Goodnight Mr Tom; perhaps having seen the famous television adaption, or indeed having read the novel. It is a story encapsulated in a moment of British history, as it tells the tale of William Beech, an evacuee from London, being transported to Little Weirwold, moments before the announcement of World War II, where he will stay with Thomas Oakley.
The first image seen in the production is that of a line of evacuee’s being brought onto the stage, singing to their hearts content. The children sing with excitement, seeing their new found home as an adventure and something to cherish, all bar one – William. He is soon introduced to Tom, and given his mother’s desire for William to be near a church, and the fact Tom lives opposite one, they are soon paired.
As the first half unfolds we learn more about our two leads – played pitch perfectly by David Troughton (Tom) and Joe Reynolds (William). We discover each is lacking familial love and that because of this they are turning away from the world. Yet, when forced together, they are able to form an unusual and dependant bond. One is able to throw light on another and, slowly but surely, they are able to open up their souls and form a deep connection.
This relationship symbolises one of the main themes of the play, that of relationships being broken, and yet mended. Throughout the play, as the war rages on, relationships and communities are broken and separated; yet, because within each there is love, they may be mended. That said, the play is not afraid to acknowledge the true darkness which this period brings with it, thus while connections may be mended, they may not always be entirely as they once were.
Another theme of the production is that of community and compassion. One example is a brilliant scene involving the children having a picnic and building an Anderson shelter. They talk of activities they enjoy and their religions as they work. Yet, while they are able to see their differences, and understand them, they are building this shelter for all of them, for their community. Differences within the community are something which exist, yet hold no power in their relationships with one another.
In this sense, I believe this most recent production of Goodnight Mr Tom is as relevant now as it was when it was first written. It is a story which urges us to come together as a community, embrace our connections and love our fellow man, in spite of the prevalent presence of evil. In this sense, it is a story of love and I would urge you to go see it while you can.
Review by Oliver Clark
Goodnight Mister Tom Overview
The Olivier award-winning Chichester Festival Theatre production of Goodnight Mister Tom returns!
Now a modern classic, Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting tale is brought gloriously to life in this magical stage adaptation by David Wood.
Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley. All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother back to London.
Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and commended for the Carnegie Medal, Goodnight Mister Tom is now a world-wide literary favourite and BAFTA award-winning TV film (starring John Thaw), and continues to inspire audiences and bring generations together.
The children playing William and Zach were Joe Reynolds and Sonny Kirby respectively.
5 – 9 April 2016
Little Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1QJ
Richmond Theatre London
12 – 16 April 2016
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Exchange St, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 1UG
19 – 23 April 2016
Woking New Victoria Theatre
The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey GU21 6GQ
26 – 30 April 2016
Bath Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal Bath, Saw Cl, Bath BA1 1ET
3 – 7 May 2016
Cambridge Arts Theatre
6 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ
10 – 14 May 2016
Cardiff New Theatre
Park Pl, Cardiff CF10 3LN
029 2087 8889
17 – 21 May 2016
Newcastle Theatre Royal
100 Grey St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6BR
0844 811 2121