This beautifully written story by Michelle Magorian is brought to life charmingly by David Wood and director Angus Jackson.
This beautiful story of frightened and lonely William Beech and his developing friendship with Tom Oakley who he is sent to live with as war is declared is moving when written down, but tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who goes to see it at the Duke of York’s Theatre.
What David Wood and Angus Jackson manage to do with Magorian’s beloved book is give additional depth to the characters and show exactly how similar Will and Tom are in the sense of their loneliness and isolation from the world.
The sets and costumes designed by Robert Innes Hopkins vividly bring the era to life – from the posters referring to rations to the surprise set that you don’t see until the second act everything has been cleverly selected to evoke the image of a nervous and on edge Britain. Although on first glance the set appears to be relatively basic, this allows the audience to focus on the story and characters and developing a close understanding of them.
Goodnight Mister Tom is filled with fantastic performances, not least from Alex Taylor-McDowall as the shy and complicated Will, who really allows the audience to see his character develop in confidence as the performance goes on. There is a fantastic performance from Oliver Loades as Zach, whose energy and enthusiasm is easy to enjoy – yet without going over the top.
David Troughton is convincing as Mister Tom, gruff and awkward in all of the right places – but the change in his attitude towards Will can be seen as a little too brisk in places.
Which is the only problem with the show. The book covers a lot of ground and themes which means that the pace of the production is quite fast and the audience doesn’t get more than a glimpse of key moments – such as when Will begins to settle down and be happy.
It may be a difficult show to watch at this time of year as it doesn’t shy away from difficult topics that can be complicated for the children that this is aimed at to comprehend it – but it never talks down to the audience which is why if by the end there aren’t tears shed then something isn’t right.
Yes it is brutal and heart-wrenching in places, but stick with it as it is one of the most uplifting experiences to be had at the theatre in the West End at the moment.
Goodnight Mister Tom is on at the Duke of York’s Theatre until the 20th February, before embarking on a UK tour. To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Discount theatre.com, Love Theatre.com and Ticketmaster.co.uk .