Goodnight Mr Tom

Goodnight Mr Tom - August 2017

August 2017

Goodnight Mr Tom is one of the most uplifting stories ever written. Michelle Magorian’s plot is brought gloriously to light by David Wood in this stage adaptation.

Set during the dark and dangerous days in the build-up to the second world war Goodnight Mr Tom follows young William Beech who is evacuated from inner London from a life of squalor and abuse to the idyllic English countryside where he builds a remarkable and moving friendship with the recluse Tom Oakley.

All seems perfect until William is summoned by his mother back to London with devastating consequences…

Goodnight Mr Tom is a tale of 2 broken souls at different ends of life that celebrates the power of love and proves that friendship knows no barriers.

Review - NODA

Author: Kath Curry

I have not seen this play before so looked forward to it with anticipation and I was not disappointed. The clever design and dressing of this open set was simply superb and so, we just knew we were in for a treat. We were…….in every aspect, fully engaged and this company once again gave us an evening of nostalgia, emotion and excellent acting. The set designed by Peter and Glenda was authentic and worked so well and with the efforts of enthusiastic and perfectionist Carol Lawrence to source props and dress the stage, we were immediately transported into the ‘Second World War’. Carol also provided an excellent display of photos in the bar which was a lovely touch. As ever with Virginia Mayes Wright stage manager and Mick Grant assistant everything moved effortlessly and quickly between scenes. The creative lighting design by Andy Hunt was superb and really enhanced the whole play and was very clever and creative especially the scene in the air-raid shelter. The sound and sound effects were spot on and I thought the choice of music to accompany the scenes and changes was extremely well thought out, and provoked memories of this era. Attention in detail to hair and costumes all added to the look of the play to ensure everything was just right.

Starting during the dark and dangerous days in the build-up to the ‘Second World War’, Good night Mr. Tom follows young William Beech who is evacuated from inner London, from a life of squalor and abuse, to idyllic English countryside where he builds up a remarkable and moving friendship with widower recluse Tom Oakley. Goodnight Mr. Tom is a tale of two broken souls at different ends of life that celebrates the power of love and proves that friendship knows no barriers. This very poignant story and its roller coaster emotional ride could not fail to involve the audience and ATC made sure we had lumps in our throats. They brought the content gloriously to life in every aspect and the cast obviously had worked very hard to understand and deliver their individual characters.

Gary Brown as Tom Oakley still mourning his wife and son delivered a superb performance in his translation as a grumpy old man to a very sensitive man and was very believable and convincing. William Bush (Cameron Cullen) and Zach (Archie Braid) were perfect in their demanding and challenging roles and are to be congratulated for their maturity in playing these parts. Cameron being the shy and sensitive boy had many demands on stage in all the various scenes and situations and handled them superbly. Zack had perfected his comedy role and had such stage presence and commanded the stage whenever he was on. Two lovely performances and with the supporting youth cast they were a credit to the society.

The overall cast / ensemble fully contributed to the plot and there wasn’t a weak link. The play was extremely well cast, and all in their roles evoked humour and sensitivity. In particular I loved the little scene in the air-raid shelter between Mr. Tom and Gladys (Jean Goodfellow). Such a lovely poignant moment and acted with with such quiet but intensive calm and shows what skill these actors have. It’s always said never work with animals, in this case was totally wrong. The dog ‘Sammy’ (Lenny) was incredible and he was on stage most of the time. He certainly almost stole the show as he did everything required and more besides and I am sure many of us would have like to have taken him home.

It was evident that the whole show was a team effort and the thought provoking moments, great acting and high energy gave us an evening to remember. Alnwick Theatre Club should be proud yet again of another wonderful evening of entertainment.

Well done everyone!

Review - Northumberland Gazette

That old theatrical adage, never work with animals or children, was tested to the max in Alnwick Theatre Club's latest production, Goodnight Mister Tom.

WC Fields, who coined the phrase, would be turning in his grave if he knew that the amateur thespians of Alnwick were attempting to perform with children AND an animal.

But without either, this production would not have been anywhere near as endearing nor, it has to be said, funny and poignant.

I arrived at the Playhouse to be greeted by a poster advertising the performances, with a Sold Out sign stuck across it. How fantastic to see such support for a local production on a Wednesday night - the first of four.

Goodnight Mister Tom was originally a novel written for children by English author Michelle Magorian in 1981, then adapted for the screen and stage.

It begins in September 1939, with Britain on the brink of the Second World War and children being evacuated out of London into the countryside. They include young William Beech, who leaves behind a fatherless life of abuse and strong religious beliefs. He is handed into the reluctant care of Mr Tom Oakley, or simply Mister Tom to William, a reclusive widower in his 60s who lives in the village of Little Weirwold.

Youngsters Archie Braid, Niamh Cullen, Cameron Cullen and Aidan Stuart with Lenny the Labrador.

So begins a bond that deepens as the play progresses and the story develops.

The characters were vividly portrayed, particularly old Mister Tom by Gary Brown, who was suitably ponderous and measured. He was the reliable glue that held everything together, slowly revealing the old man's soft interior, through to a dramatic, emotionally-charged finale.

There were plenty of cameos and Helen Gee-Graham was also worthy of special mention for her commanding performance of villager Mrs Fletcher, alongside the assured Olivia Waller and Nick Biggers as the Hartridges. Antonia Hoskins-Brown was properly scary as William's god-fearing mum.

But it was the youngsters who really brought this production to light, especially the calm maturity of Cameron Cullen as William and the madcap antics of Archie Braid as his buddy Zach. They develop a touching, enduring friendship that the audience warmed to and appreciated. The delightful scene in which the two boys discuss where babies come from was hilarious.

The pair have a big future on the stage, in particular 10-year-old Archie, who reminded me of a young Tyler Angus, who lit up the Playhouse stage on many occasions in school productions.

They were ably supported by Harry Clark-Thompson as the bully George Fletcher, who gets his comeuppance, Sophie Murray as Carrie Miller, and Aidan Stuart as Billy Miller.

Another star of the show was Lenny, the black Labrador, who spent more time on stage than any animal I have ever seen and performed impeccably, with the waggiest tail ever. I hope he was given a big treat and lots of hugs for his efforts.

Although the evening is ultimately uplifting, the over-riding feeling generated is one of sadness at the futility of war.

The staging was impressive, with the space being convincingly divided into Tom's home, a graveyard where his wife and child were buried, a library/doctor's surgery and London, complete with a tube station doubling up as an air-raid shelter. The costumes, expert lighting and use of songs and broadcasts (including speeches from Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill) from the time also helped transport the audience back to a frightening world.

There were a few first-night nerves, muffed lines and a slow pace that will improve as the week progresses, but the motto for Alnwick Theatre Club after this experience should be ALWAYS work with animals and children.

Goodnight Mister Tom is on each evening until Saturday (August 26) at 7.30pm. For tickets, visit the Playhouse website or call the box office on 01665 510785.

THE CAST

Gary Brown (Mr Tom Oakley); Cameron Cullen (William Beech); Archie Braid (Zach); Harry Clark-Thompson (George Fletcher); Sophie Murray (Carrie Miller); Aidan Stuart (Billy Miller); Helen Gee-Graham (Mrs Fletcher/Social Worker); John Firth (Charlie Ruddles/London Policeman); Olivia Waller (Mrs Hartridge/Nurse); Nick Biggers (Mr Hartridge/Mr Stelton); Heather Howey (Dr Little); Maggie Wallace (Miss Thorne); Jean Goodfellow (Gladys); Mary Frater (Billeting Officer/Nursing Sister); Susan Joyce (Mrs Miller); Alex Clark-Thompson (Vicar/London ARP Warden); Antonia Hoskins-Brown (Mrs Beech); Niamh Cullen; Fiona Cuthbert; Edmund Turner; Holly Robinson.