Tag Archives: Michelle Magorian

Just Henry

That was a nice film, featuring postwar Britain and cinemas and some family shenanigans. But it wasn’t Just Henry as I know it. Having blogged on Bookwitch earlier today about the difficulties of adapting books to screen or stage, and having to cut viciously, this ITV production proved it.

Characters went missing to the point of confusion and had to double up, also to the point of confusion. But it’s a necessary evil, so is OK. Simplifying the plot is also necessary, cutting subplots you can do without. I’m just wondering if Just Henry could have done with being 30 minutes longer? If you hadn’t read the book, did it seem like a complete and understandable story?

I was sitting there thinking, ‘oops, there went more part of the plot,’ and ‘oh, dear, there we lost another…’

But, as I said, it was a nice enough period film. This time with both my green teacups as well as their yellow sister teacups.

The movies aspect of Michelle Magorian’s book was almost totally gone. They went to see a few films – someone likes The Third Man a little bit too much – and the cinema was a glorious venue in which to meet, but the movies and the school project were severely lacking. And  I missed the marvellous sisterhood development between all the mothers.

Sheila Hancock, Josh Bolt, Dean Andrews and Elaine Cassidy in Just Henry, ITV

So it was mainly the messy family situation left, with dead father, remarried mother, new stepfather, nasty grandmother (Sheila Hancock certainly knew what she was doing there! She was magnificent! I daresay she had to make up for John Thaw’s kind old man in Goodnight Mister Tom…) and the not so dead father after all. That’s enough plot for any film, albeit confusing for us book-readers. (I spoke to Daughter who had slight problems getting to grips with the abridgedness of the tale.)

Cutting bits out is OK, when time is at a premium. So why add new things that weren’t in the book? Mrs Beaumont and the belt was a very unpleasant addition. What good did it do?

Stockport Plaza

Finally, the Plaza cinema felt awfully familiar. And that would be because it was ‘our’ Plaza. Filmed on location in Leeds, it is clear that Leeds has grown a lot and now incorporates Stockport as well as some sea or other. And on that basis I have to agree with Grace when she tells Henry that Manchester isn’t so very far away.

Goodnight Mister Tom

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.

Goodnight Mister Tom

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.

William and Tom in Goodnight Mister Tom

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.)

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

I love architecture, and the whackier the better. I tend to love most new arty buildings, which up here in the wastes of Manchester includes the Bridgewater Hall and The Lowry. Until yesterday I had only ever admired the Imperial War Museum from across the water by The Lowry. Up close, I’m not so sure.

Hard to find the way in. It’s whacky and arty, but getting in has some sort of useful functional feel to it. It’s why you’ve come all this way. When you have an asymmetrical warehouse, why skimp on door size?

The staff were lovely and helpful, so it’s not the human side of things I’m grumbling about. The shop is well lit and well stocked, so you can see to spend your money. The toilet is not as well lit as it could be, and with black doors and a mirror that makes you think the place is twice the size, you could go wrong.

Jukebox, Imperial War Museum North

Lovely views over the water should make the café really attractive. But the first thing I noticed, before I’d even climbed all the stairs up, was the smell of school dinners. Second, it’s dark, despite the large windows. It’s noisy, with excellent acoustics if listening to the clatter and din from other visitors is high on your agenda. You can barely hear the person sharing your table, which could be quite useful in many relationships.

Main exhibition hall is very dark. When it comes to preserving old paintings I’m all for darkness. Here I can only guess it’s meant to make it more warlike and atmospheric. The drawback with so much atmosphere is that oldies like me can’t see very much, which almost defeats the idea of looking round a museum. Also whacky and asymmetrical enough to make you get lost, which could add to the fun you have.

And I did say the shop was well lit, didn’t I? It was still slightly tricky to find the exit, which doubles as the entrance, so you have already come through the doors once, and it should be plain sailing. Though, as soon as you’re close enough, they open automatically, which is a useful hint. I’d be willing to pay not to go up in the lift in the tower by the almost non-existent doors.

Michelle Magorian

Other than that it’s OK.

The jukebox is wonderful!

The event organised by the Manchester Literature Festival on Sunday, with children’s war novelist Michelle Magorian was excellent. If a wee bit dark.