Based on the classic heartfelt novel, the Olivier award winning play Goodnight Mister Tom brings to life the story of young boy William from London who is evacuated during the war to live in Dorset with widower Tom Oakley.
It is a beautifully emotional story about family and friendship. William is a physically and psychologically damaged young boy who is forced upon reluctant Tom. As they warm to each other they provide a sense of comfort and belonging to one another. They struggle through ups and downs but as William’s confidence and happiness enhances, the poignancy of the story is heightened.
The set is simply yet expressively designed by Robert Innes Hopkins to capture the patriotism and sense of community during World War Two. The set transitions smoothly from the colourful serenity of the Dorset countryside to the William’s mechanically cold London home. Also adding to the fluidity of the performance is the use of traditional wartime songs sang by the cast to intertwine each scene, particularly the repetition of Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye, sung whenever a character is about to embark on a different stage in their life such as returning home.
The use of puppetry to bring the dog Sammy to life is highly impressive, Elisa De Grey masters the movement and characterisation of the lovable dog. She captures the playfulness of Sammy as she barks and whimpers, her affection towards William is moving and she plays a key role in the show.
William Beech is played by Alex Taylor-McDowall, a superb young actor who transforms from a shy, neglected and frightened boy to a charming and outgoing child through the guidance and nurture of Tom Oakley. Taylor-McDowall’s relationship with David Troughton who plays Tom is touching, they manage to change each other for the better.
Troughton’s character grows from a tetchy old man who lacks patience and care after his wife and child died. Despite his cold nature Troughton manages to still have a sparkle in his eye as he appears instantly loveable. As his relationship with William grows, so does his character, Troughton is a sensational actor that depicts the raw emotion excellently throughout the show as he struggles to come to terms with the possible chance of losing William.
Despite the emotional moments in the show, Oliver Loades lifts the energy of the show as charismatic young Zach. His outspoken and lively persona provides the humour in the show, as he plays the character of an aspiring young actor his animated characterisation is endearing. Loades is a phenomenal actor with impeccable comedy timing for a child of his age.
The most powerful and heart rendering scene takes place in William’s London home when he returns to visit his mother Mrs Beech played by Melle Stewart. Stewart provides a commanding performance as a woman suffering with severe mental health issues. Her hatred and anger towards William is hard to watch but it is an outstanding piece of acting from both actors.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a show that is inevitable to make your heart ache and will leave you feeling a mixture of emotions. It’s a family show that will appeal to all ages that is both acted and staged formidably.
Goodnight Mister Tom is on at The Manchester Opera House until the 27th of February and tickets are available here.