GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM
Review from NODA:
Adapted by David Wood from the award winning children’s novel by Michelle Magorian, the story centres around two people, William Beech, an illiterate, undernourished and frightened child evacuee from London who is sent to live in a west country village at the outbreak of the war and Tom Oakley, a 60 something widower with whom he is billeted. Tom has lived a somewhat reclusive existence since the death of his wife and child 40 years previously, his only companion being his dog Sammy. William has never known love and affection. He is covered in bruises, the result of regular beatings by his mother who even packs the belt used for the purpose in his bag. This is immediately thrown out by Tom in whose care William begins to thrive. He learns how to read and write and is enrolled at the local school where he makes friends and even joins a drama group.
When William’s mother is taken ill he has to return to London and after weeks with no word Tom decides to try and track him down. He finds him locked in a cupboard cradling the dead body of his baby sister and with no sign of his mother. A traumatised William returns to live with Tom but following the suicide of his mother the authorities insist he is placed in an orphanage. Eventually however they back down and Tom is allowed to adopt him. There is a poignant moment at the end of the play when William refers to Tom as Dad for the first time.
An excellent performance by Barry Bowen as Tom Oakley, a man who for too long has allowed his feelings to be supressed. Gradually he realises that he is becoming attached to and protective of William as he watches him blossom into a confident youngster.
Isaac Wood presented as a talented young actor and I was amazed to discover this was his first principal role. This cannot be an easy part for a child to play, dealing as it does with abuse and neglect, but Isaac gave a wonderfully sensitive and very mature performance. Well done to him and to Aston Wood as Zach, a lively stage struck youngster, also an evacuee from London, whose parents are actors. Aston looked as though he was thoroughly enjoying playing this extrovert character and gave a very creditable performance. Two young performers to watch.
Playing the local children were Rebecca Slade and Eve Dunkin (also doubling as Miss Miller) as twins Carrie and Ginnie and Charlie Brooks (doubling as a Policeman) as George. All gave very believable performances.
Tom’s old sheepdog Sammy was so realistic, it was easy at times to forget we were looking at a puppet. Very well done to Melissa Guest on her excellent puppeteering skills.
The principals were well supported by the other members of the cast, some of whom played multiple roles, all of which were recognisable stereotypes.
Costumes had been well sourced and were of the era, including the commuters rushing past at the station.
Music of the period was an almost constant and linked the scenes nicely thus saving the audience from those sometimes agonisingly silent scene changes. Excerpts from famous speeches added to the authenticity.
Scenery was kept simple but had been well thought out with Tom’s cottage stage left and a raised ‘brick’ built multi use area projecting from the back of the set. The idea of a flap at the back of this through which stage props were slid on and off stage when the lights were down was quite ingenuous and meant that scene changes, of which there were many, could be carried out swiftly, causing minimum disturbance to the pace of the show.
This was a well presented and well directed production.
Well done to all involved and thank you for inviting me.
Decia Ranger, NODA Reporter
Mr Tom - Barry Bowen
Billeting Officer/ Mrs Miller/ Social Worker - Heather Charnley
William Beech - Isaac Wood
Sammy - Melissa Guest
Charlie Ruddles/ Vicar/ Mr Stelton - Clive Weatherley
Mrs Fletcher/ Gladys - Susie Magill
Dr Little - Paul Stephenson
Annie Hartridge/ Nurse - Emily Power
David Hartridge/ ARP Warden - Jake Hannam
Carrie - Rebecca Slade
Ginnie/ Miss Miller - Eve Dunkin
George/ Policeman - Charlie Brooks
Miss Thorne/ Sister - Amanda Green
Zacheray - Aston Wood
Mrs Beech - Alex Appleton
Director - Paul Johnson
Lighting and Sound Design - Tom Richards
Costume Design - Jocelyn Johnson
Stage Manager - Sam Stevens
Puppet Creation - Izzy Lacey
Set Design and Realisation - Paul Johnson, Bretts Stevens,
Stephen Dove, Izzy Lacey, Melissa Guest
Prompt and Performance Coach - Vanessa Wood
for William and Zacheray
Props - Jocelyn Johnson, Vanessa Wood, Barry Bowen,
ASMs - Sarah Wiggins, Helga Kilroy, Jake Hannam,
Michelle Jiminez-Alder, Katie Fisher
Chaperones - Vanessa Wood, Jocelyn Johnson
Lighting Operator - Claire Klyn
Sound Operator - Tom Richards
Publicity Design - Paul Johnson
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank our sponsors for their support throughout 2019.