Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom has become a worldwide literary success since its publication in 1981. Fuelled by its own success of uniting the generations within its audiences and so vividly portraying human emotion in its most raw of forms – love and loss – Goodnight Mister Tom has arrived in Glasgow to charm and inspire audiences all over again.
Adapted for the stage by David Wood OBE and directed by Angus Jackson, it is a tale set in the lead-up to the Second World War. What sets it apart from similar tales is its unique development around a 9-year-old protagonist: the poor, abused and shy evacuee from London, William Beech.
Wood’s adaptation documents William’s escape from his abusive home life in London after being evacuated to the idyllic country town of Dorset in early September 1939, when the declaration of war was still “imminent”.
Olivier award winner Oliver Ford Davies (Hamlet; RSC, Star Wars, Game of Thrones) reprises his role as Mister Tom and leads a highly professional and experienced cast that spans a broad age range, while six talented child performers have been cast in the roles of Zach and William. In this performance Ewan Harris plays William whilst William Price is Zach.
All three male leads manage to effortlessly develop a sense of depth within their characters; the audience engaging almost immediately with them.
Davies and Harris work well together to establish an endearing and charming on-stage bond between Mister Tom and William; a bond we see flourish throughout the performance. Representing the epitome of innocence, William is aptly portrayed with a sense of vulnerability and frailty, while Zach keeps the audience’s spirits high with his on-stage antics, charisma and over-the-top enthusiasm. The undeniable show-stealer, however, is Sam the dog; whose creative portrayal and loyalty to his two masters, wins the hearts of all.
Set in both London and Dorset, the play succeeds in portraying a striking contrast between William’s two realities: his past and his present. Both realities are magnificently brought to life through use of costumes, war-time props, make-up and regional dialects, all of which complement the cast’s delivery.
The set is well-constructed and is combined with a creative lighting sequence and an array of sound effects. Imaginative and artistic manifestations of a ‘dream sequence’ and local fauna further emphasise this performance’s undeniable triumph.
Wood’s Goodnight Mister Tom is a succinct success that manages to accurately capture the essence, emotion and conviction of Magorian’s original masterpiece. It hones in on the importance of love, the heartache of loss and the passion for survival. This stage performance of Goodnight Mister Tom is truly a highly commendable work of art.