GOODNIGHT MR TOM; a play by David Wood, from the novel by Michelle Magorian
Chichester Festival Theatre, Touring
Runs: 2h, one interval, New Alexandra, Birmingham till Sat 13 April
Review: Alexander Ray Edser
Performance Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, 09 04 13
A lovely tale, warmly related.
There is something very beautiful about this story . . . something to do with innocence, the power of friendship, generosity and the power of goodness. If this sounds schmaltzy – wrong. For a show to be sentimental, the emotion must be greater than the story can bear; in GOODNIGHT MR TOM, the story carries the emotion easefully.
Set during the war, William, an abused evacuee goes to live with curmudgeonly Tom Oakley; but the old man finds a genuine affection for the boy, and the boy finds the love and security with the old man and the community that he is denied from his mother. The production works because of the relationship between the two central characters.
Oliver Ford Davies totally encapsulates Tom, he moves, speaks and breathes Tom; Davies always manages to make acting look easy completely merging himself with his character. Young Arthur Gledhill-Franks builds a growing trust and warmth with Davies, ensuring the whole thing works. Both characters grow through their relationship; we share this with them.
The other young actor, Joseph Holgate brings great zest to William’s theatrical friend Zach.
In our modern (and perhaps harder) times it is easy to sneer at stories such as these – do they lack a necessary street-cred? Maybe they do, but they portray enriching values in engaging ways.
Much to be admired is the easy rhythm director Angus Jackson employs – time to reflect as the story moves along. The characters in this war-time set tale are ever reminded of death; no more so than when William learns to live with it in different manifestations. Sensitively handled in the production, it brings in an element of appropriate toughness we may have thought it was going to lack.
And we all love Sam the dog – excellent puppet work from Elisa de Grey.
Dr Little / Ticket Collector: Osmond Bullock
Ginnie / Nurse / Squirrel: Louise Collins
Sam / Puppeteer: Elisa de Grey
Ensemble / Miss Miller: Emma Drysdale
Tom Oakley: Oliver Ford Davies
George / Policeman: Bradley Hall
Mrs Fletcher / Glad / Social Worker: Joanne Howarth
Anne Hartridge / Mrs Beech: Aoife McMahon
Carrie / Sister / Sparrow: Freya Parker
Billeting Officer / Miss Thorne: Georgina Sutton
Mr Miller / ARP Officer: Alan Vicary
Charlie Ruddles / David Hartridge / Vicar / Mr Stelton: Jonathan Warde
William Beech: Arthur Gledhill-Franks, Jamie Goldberg, Ewan Harris
Zach: Joseph Holgate, Thiago Los, William Price
Director: Angus Jackson
Set and Costume Design: Robert Innes Hopkins
Lighting Design: Tim Mitchell
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke
Composition: Matthew Scott
Puppet Creation and Direction: Toby Olie
Assistant Puppet Director: Laura Cubitt
Musical Staging: Lizzi Gee
Casting: Marc Frankum
Children’s Casting and Administration: Joanne Hawes