Goodnight Mister Tom: not a dry eye in the house

Dec 3, 2012

Enchanting adaptation of well-loved children's novel leaves critics reaching for the Kleenex

Catherine Ashmore

What you need to know
David Wood's stage adaptation of Michelle Magorian's modern children's classic, Goodnight Mister Tom, directed by Angus Jackson, has transferred to the Phoenix Theatre, West End. This production premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre last year.

Set in England during World War II, it tells the story of William, an abused boy who is evacuated to the country during the Battle of Britain to find a new life and friendship with an elderly recluse, Mister Tom.

Olivier-award winning Oliver Ford Davies stars as Mr Tom. A trio of boys, including Ewan Harris, take turns to play the role of William. Runs until 26 January.

What the critics like
This stage adaptation tugs the heart strings, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. It also offers "moments of enchanting comedy" courtesy of the very appealing child performers, and a delightful puppet dog. "At the end, there isn't a dry eye in the house."

The performances are key, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Oliver Ford Davies "marvellously shows Tom's transformation from a flinty old beggar" to a figure of loving kindness. "This is a strong seasonal show, unafraid to target the emotions."

William's progression from misery to happiness and back again twangs the heartstrings, says Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph, "but Angus Jackson's breezy direction keeps the sentimentality to a minimum", adding plenty of witty detail and performances that light up the stage.

What they don't like
Oliver Ford Davies can be more lugubrious than charismatic, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. Those who cherish the 1998 TV film adaptation with John Thaw might not have those memories erased, but "it's a quality seasonal offering nonetheless".

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