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8th March 2016

Review: Goodnight Mister Tom

The touching tale of a childless father and a fatherless child brought together through the hardship of war in a love story that could melt a heart of ice

Michelle Magorian’s classic story of wartime England, adapted by playwright David Wood, arrives at The Opera House, Manchester. Having seen its debut on London’s West End in 2013, the Olivier award-winning Chichester Festival Theatre production of Goodnight Mister Tom has arrived to tug at the heart strings of the North as we follow a troubled young evacuee, William Beech, on his journey to the countryside during the build up to World War II. Our young hero finds himself placed in the care of the old local recluse, Tom Oakley; a seemingly harsh man who seeks only the company of his dog, and avoids human contact since the passing of his wife years ago. The audience watched, captivated, as old Tom transformed into Willy’s beloved Mister Tom.

The stripped back production used only the necessities to create an enchanting hold on those lucky enough to be watching. A simple set with minimal props and furniture subtly highlighted the meagre lifestyle of England living through the war. The acappella renditions ;khng talented cast. Puppetry was an ingenious portrayal of Mister Tom’s beloved canine companion, Sammy, with Elisa De Grey mastering his sound and movement to the point where you forgot there was even a puppeteer present, and saw only man’s best friend.

Mister Tom himself is played by British stage and TV regular, David Troughton. Spieling lines is an easy feat for an actor, but to be comfortable in silence is an art. He nailed it. It was like he was born to play Mister Tom. Of course, he has two bright young stars to perform with. Alex Taylor-McDowall as William Beech made the entire audience want a little evacuee to call their own, and Oliver Loades as Zach broke the hearts of every last person in that auditorium. Bright futures ahead for both child actors in this performance.

Goodnight Mister Tom at The Opera House is a must see for anyone who enjoys a touching wartime narrative, a father-son love story, or for anyone who enjoys good theatre. Simple, stunning, superb.

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