by David Wood from the novel by Michelle Magorian.

Duke of York’s Theatre St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4BG To 20 February.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat, 22 & 29 Dec 2.30pm except Wed mats 20, 27 Jan, 3, 10 Feb at 1.30pm.
TICKETS: 0844 871 3051.
then Tour to 14 May 2016.

Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 December.

A good story told with honourable tact.
Michelle Magorian’s 1981 novel shows curmudgeonly Tom Oakley, a rural widower for over 4 decades, with only his lively dog Sammy, coming to life in 1939 when, as an act of duty, he accepts London lad William Beech as an evacuee.

It takes only minutes in David Wood’s adaptation for the benefit of their meeting to show, both for old Mr Tom and young William, a cowed lad whose mother had physically and emotionally abused him into submissive fear. In light of what’s to come there’s a telling early moment when William, offered the bed Tom’s made for him, automatically goes under, rather than into, it.

Nowadays it’s unlikely a boy would be placed with a single man; here, the only anachronistic note is struck when a child expert picks suspiciously on an innocent phrase Tom uses.

After a heartening first act, the ground shifts beneath William’s feet. His mother wants him back and the floor of Tom’s cottage rises to reveal the gloomy Deptford home where she speaks stern Puritanism at her son and behaves with a cruelty that soon scares the lad, stripping from him the sense of self-worth he had built in the country.

There’s horrific cruelty, increased by the sense of the mother’s anything-but-puritanical lifestyle – she is an incapable soul blundering towards destruction for herself and her son. And the most fearful aspect is the impact of her hurt and damage on William.

One man – Tom – and his dog arrive just in time, determinedly searching the metropolitan jungle. David Troughton’s Tom earns the late-life, simply expressed happy ending, while Angus Jackson’s production moves the village people William meets around the central platform of Robert Innes Hopkins’ set, where the two homes are contrasted.

It might seem soft-centred. But, until the final moment, the heart- warming impact on the central trio – William, Tom and Tom’s dog Sammy – is contrasted by a quiet accumulation of death and bereavement. The most nihilistic character dies, but so does the one who starts-out cheerily confident, as life and death interweave in a story that’s moving without being at all sentimental.

George/Policeman: Clark Devlin.
Sammy Puppeteer: Elisa de Grey.
Charlie Ruddles/David Hartridge/Vicar/Mr Stelton.
Dr Little/Ticket Collector: Simon Markey.
Miss Miller/Squirrel Puppeteer: Abigail Matthews.
Mrs Fletcher/Glad/Social Worker: Jane Milligan.
Carrie/Sister: Martha Seignior.
Mr Miller/ ARP Warden: James Staddon.
Annie Hartridge/Mrs Beech: Melle Stewart.
Billeting Officer/Miss Thorne: Georgina Sutton.
Binnie/Nurse: Hollie Taylor.
Tom Oakley: David Troughton.
William Beech: Freddy Hawkins/Joe Reynolds/Alex Taylor-McDowall.
Zach: Sonny Kirby/Oliver Loades/Harrison Noble.

Director: Angus Jackson.
Designer/Costume: Robert Innes Hopkins.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Composer: Matthew Scott.
Puppets: Toby Olié.
Associate director: John Pashley.
Associate lighting: Guy Jones.
Associate sound: Jon Everett.

23-27 Feb 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm Manchester Opera House 0844 871 3018
1-5 Mar 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm Milton Keynes Theatre 0844 871 7652
8-12 Mar 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Glasgow 0844 871 7647
15-19 Mar 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham 0844 871 3011
22-26 Mar 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm New Theatre Oxford 0844 871 3020
29 Mar-2 Apr 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm Grand Opera House York 0844 871 3024
5-9 Apr 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651
12-16 Apr 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm Waterside Theatre Aylesbury 0844 871 7607
19-23 Apr 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm New Victoria Theatre Woking 0844 871 7645
10-14 May 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm New Theatre Cardiff 029 2087 8889

2016-01-17 23:11:59

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