15-19 March 2016
Reviewed by Katy Nettleton
When Goodnight Mister Tom was announced to be touring at Birmingham Alexandra I jumped at the chance of getting a ticket – it is based on a film which brings lots of happy memories for me (personally). I remember sitting in my lounge at home with my parents and sister watching this film on a Sunday afternoon with a bag of crisps and trying to hide my tears (I was a stone-faced teenager who didn’t like to express too much emotion!). So as you can appreciate I was also apprehensive that my emotions would not be alighted as they were with the film – but I needn’t have worried!
This is a play with a difference – the actors showed their heart on their sleeves. I have not seen a play by David Wood before and will certainly look forward to watching another of his shows. The writing, acting and staging was exceptional and I am unable to find anything to critique.
The story follows a young boy (William Beech) who is evacuated from London during World War II to the country; he is assigned to a loner Mr Oakley (played by David Troughton) and soon builds a relationship up with him. As their time together passes William Beech (who is played by 3 different boys over a week but was Alex Taylor-McDowall tonight) grows in strength and confidence to make a friend with another evacuee Zach (again played by 3 different boys over the week with Harrison Noble playing tonight). William and Zach become good friends and also become part of the local community. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that William has not had the best start in life and truly just wants love and to be understood.
Sadly, as this play is based in the World War II there were deaths and you could feel the heartache each and every actor felt when their loved ones were taken away. This just demonstrates the quality in the production – you could see many of the audience wiping away a tear or two (and that was not just me).
There was light humour added to the play in the form of Sammy the puppet dog. The way in which the “puppet” acted as a dog and although you could see the “puppeteer” your eyes were brought to the dog and its actions. The sounds he made were realistic and at one point I actually thought there must be dogs’ noises being used rather than the puppeteer (which they were!). It’s hard to describe in words the effect of a puppet on a serious play but this just took it to another level.
Zach was a cheeky, loveable character and really brought parts of the play alive and took the audience attention away from the terrible situation they were all living in (evacuees). You could see Zach’s hunger for life and wanting to entertain everyone, but underneath he was a caring and compassionate person.
It’s hard to review a play of such a high standard which did not disappoint – and yes I did shed a tear at the end. I have not read the novel but have seen the film version previously and this really did not disappoint; there was singing, laughter, tears, pain, agony and hope, determination and fear.
Overall I would give this show 5 out of 5 and recommend everyone to go and watch and a standing ovation. The standard of acting, staging and writing cannot be faulted.
Tickets cost from £14.40 to £34.40 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Goodnight Mister Tom is at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until 19 March 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.
New Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS