Latest Review – Goodnight Mister Tom [Opera House, Manchester] [UK Tour]

GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM

Opera House, Manchester

Until Saturday 27th February, 2016

First published back in 1981, Michelle Magorian’s heartwarming novel – famously adapted for the screen in 1998, with John Thaw in the title role – has become so beloved and cherished by families over the last few decades that the mere thought of it intuitively strikes a chord deep in the heart of anyone familiar with its poignant tale of compassion, loss and newly discovered paternal love.

David Wood’s Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation is no different. Of course there are certain aspects of the source material that have had to be altered and revised for the purposes and limitations of the theatre, but all the essentials are there, and most importantly it tells the story, never losing sight of what it is trying to achieve and always packing an emotional punch.

Goodnight Mister Tom ultimately follows the journey of one young boy, William Beech, as he is evacuated from an abusive London home during the air-raids of World War II and put into the care of the curmudgeonly widower, Tom Oakley, an elderly recluse who lives a quite countryside life with his trusty Border Collie, Sammy.

In juxtaposing the bright, serene rural countryside setting with the dark, bleak landscape of a London destroyed by the Blitz, the production cleverly mirrors the respective journeys of our central pairing of William and Tom. Brought up in a fatherless home and physically and psychologically damaged by an overly religious and mentally unhinged mother, William has grown up without love, without the ability to read or write and without the warmth and compassion afforded to those in his new countryside home. In a similar vein of sadness and isolation, Tom has been widowed for some forty-one years and has since lived a life of loneliness with only his canine companion for company. Tom is of course very reluctant when the sickly young boy is forced upon him, but as they traverse the various struggles and hurdles as the months pass by, they both give each other a sense of belonging and a love and compassion that has been absent for far too long. Seeing the light and colour drawing back into the lives of both and watching the unfamiliar paternal bond gently blossoming makes for an incredibly poignant piece of theatre.

The always brilliant David Troughton is wonderful in the eponymous role of old Tom, perfectly conveying the character’s emotional path, adding a further level of depth to familiar lines and leading the show with necessary levels of experience, charisma and stage presence. That said however, the show is very much an ensemble piece, with a large cast of strong stage performers doubling, tripling and even quadrupling up to portray the novel’s numerous characters. Special mention though must go to puppeteer Elisa De Grey for her superb work as the faithful Sammy. Alex Taylor-Mcdowell very impressively demonstrates William’s journey from a shy, naive and frightened child into the strong, outgoing country boy he becomes, and Oliver Loades gives us an incredibly lively and energetic performance as the theatrical young Zach.

Unfolding on Robert Innes Hopkins’ very inventive and versatile folding set, Angus Jackson’s production is clear, well paced and very nicely staged, further enhanced by the atmospheric lighting design of Tim Mitchell and sound design of Gregory Clarke.

Traditional, family entertainment at its most effective, this is a must see for anyone with a long-standing affection for the piece and for anybody yet to discover the moving and rewarding tale for themselves.

Running Time: 2 hours and 20-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Saturday 27th February, 2016.

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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