A very good night with Mr Tom
CAMILLA GOODMAN reviews the Olivier award-winning Goodnight Mister Tom
IFIRST came across Goodnight Mister Tom when at primary school and we studied the novel by
Michelle Magorian. The story has stuck with me since and so I was delighted to learn a stage version of Goodnight Mister Tom was coming to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.
Taking my seat, I was greeted by what on first impressions looks like a very simplistic set.
The Dorset location is simply depicted with an illustration on a backdrop. There is a raised wooden platform in the centre of the stage, and a few props, such as the frame of a door, a table and a chair.
I have seen better sets in amateur dramatic performances, and so I was a little apprehensive about what was to follow.
However, I had no reason to feel apprehensive because what followed was two hours of pure delight.
Bucks boy Alex Taylor-McDowall, who attends the Jackie Palmer Stage School in High Wycombe, played the role of William in this production. He was quite simply amazing and portrayed William’s journey from a withdrawn nervous wreck to a confident bubbly child wonderfully. His facial expressions and body language really helped portray the pain poor little William goes through emotionally and physically. I am confident Alex will go on to be a big star.
Another stand-out performance was from William’s best friend Zach, played by 13-year-old Oliver Loades from Hertfordshire in this production.
Zach is a colourful, larger than life character with a theatrical background and is a stark contrast to William.
It is Zach who delivers most of the most laugh-out-loud moments in the show, of which there are many, which helps give comic relief in a show that tackles difficult and hard-hitting subjects.
Oliver was full of energy from start to finish and really helped bring the show to life. Just like Alex, I think Oliver is going to go on to achieve amazing things.
The title character is played by David Troughton, known as a Shakespearean actor and TV roles including Dr Bob Buzzard in A Very Peculiar Practice and Ricky Hansen in New Tricks. He also plays Tony Archer in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, a role he took over in January 2014.
He makes the perfect Mister Tom and takes the audience on a powerful journey. He has a fantastic chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially William, and some moments will make you say ‘aww’ out loud.
Another character he has great chemistry with is Sammy his dog, which is a puppet masterfully brought to life by puppeteer Elisa De Grey. Even she is visible on stage, you soon forget she is there focusing all your attention on Sammy, just as is the case in shows such as War Horse and The Lion King. As well as moving Sammy beautifully, De Grey also does all of Sammy’s vocals, which were so good I actually thought it was a recording!
It is also worth giving Melle Stewart a mention, who plays two very contrasting characters in the show. We first see her as the sweet, kind and gentle school teacher Annie Hartridge. However, Melle also takes on the role of William’s mother Mrs Beech.
The show changes pace and takes on a darker tone in Act II when William is forced to leave the life he has become to love in Dorset has return to his sick mother in London.
It is then the set comes to life, as the wooden platform raises upright to reveal a cold, colourless and unloved London home and the brutal reality of William’s home life is revealed.
The show tackles some extremely hard-hitting issues but they are handled in a sensitive way, making it perfect for young and old audience members alike.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a beautiful heart-warming show that will make you love those you are close to that little bit more. But whatever you do, don’t forget the tissues!
The production is on tour until May 21. For more information visit www.goodnightmistertom.co.uk.