It’s funny how much you can cry at the theatre, even when you know the story well and thus could be better prepared for the sad parts. And it’s not funny at all, when you think of how sad it is and that people have died. In the end it wasn’t the dead people who did for me. It was the word Dad at the very end. So, a hankie would not have been a bad thing to have come equipped with. I didn’t.
This production only had time to fit in the bare bones of Michelle Magorian’s novel. But that’s fine. It was all there in spirit, including the best puppet dog I’ve ever seen. Sammy must count as a first cousin to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse horse puppets, and he truly helped with William’s transition into Tom Oakley’s home.
‘The Sad Man’ – which is how I always think of Oliver Ford Davies – came into his own as Mister Tom. So much more right for the part than John Thaw was in the film. He had an impressively worthy William in Toby Prynne, who was both small and powerful at the same time.
The villagers milled about as villagers do, but in such a way that you could believe in the friendship with the small and frightened evacuee. Clever use of one actress both as the kind teacher and as William’s mother, bringing their differences into the open. The simple set worked well, adding enough period feel without going over the top.
WWII is popular. The audience at the Lowry on Tuesday evening was mainly ‘old’, although not necessarily old enough to have lived through the war, and with plenty of junior school pupils, presumably doing WWII in history. I bet Michelle Magorian never expected to have her children’s novel put to use as a school book.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a lovely, heartwarming dramatisation of a wonderful book. It might not be the greatest play in the world, but it’s very enjoyable – apart from the sad bits – and I would guess we all went home happy, albeit in tears.
The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner found it too risk free last week. Whatever that means. But it’s a novel first and foremost, and it can’t work in the same way that a play written exclusively for the stage would. There’s a difference.
This was good.
(The William in the photo is not my William.)