Goodnight Mister Tom Review: Richmond Theatre
Goodnight Mister Tom's Central Characters
Goodnight Mister Tom has already been on the road with great success, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment in 2013.
In this current version at the wonderfully intimate Richmond Theatre, the ensemble works the story as well as ever. The tale revolves around a World War II evacuee William Beech sent to the safe Dorset haven where he is looked after by curmudgeonly Tom Oakley, played by David Troughton.
After a ropey and rigid start of getting to know you, the first signs of a relationship between adopted son, timidly and sweetly played by Joe Reynolds, and the old man begin to take shape. We learn that Tom’s wife, Rachel, passed away 40 years ago with their baby, explaining the reclusive decades that have put cobwebs on his social skills.
Growing Relationship Between Mister Tom and William
William has been repressed by a dysfunctional relationship with a mother who has armed him with a Bible and a belt for any punishments that his charge should deem necessary. Tom notices the bruises on his legs and also the ignorance of the poor young child in knowledge and general functioning.
However, he is taken out of himself by the Dorset set of young upstarts, particularly young Zac, a Jewish boy who is not backward in coming forward and possesses an ebullience that brings a spark to the previously timid William. There is a genuine spirit between the young actors as well as free-spirited young womanhood from “giggly” girls Ginnie and Carrie, splendidly played by Hollie Taylor and Martha Seignior. Sonny Kirby delights as Zac and it is a genuinely touching scene where his demise brings great sorrow to both young and old.
The Play Tackles Big Issues
In fact, the play is not frightened of tackling the big issues of the book: death, war, religious intolerance and domestic abuse. The second act really sees a more intense 45 minutes as William’s mother demands his return to London and unleashes a domestic torrent of sin and heavenly propaganda on her son. The stage is brilliantly worked like a gate of hell as it gives us an insight into the conditions of a slum like existence.
A worried Tom visits London with his trusty dog, a brilliant audio and puppeteer act carried out by Elisa de Grey. There is a subsequent scene where a stricken William is supposed to be transferred to a psychiatric centre for children, but Mister Tom takes the route of “kind” kidnapping as they make their way back to London for a lasting and touchingly loving finale.
Goodnight Mister Tom is an absolute pearl of a play and Troughton should take the plaudits for making such a believable turn as the old grouch who learns to love and trust in life again.