Goodnight Mister Tom

Date 2nd June 2017
Society Encore Productions
Venue Pyramid & Parr Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Kit Phillips

Report

Author: Louise Colohan

Goodnight Mister Tom is brought gloriously to life in this magical stage adaptation by David Wood. Set during the Blitz in WW2, Goodnight Mister Tom follows William Beech, an illiterate, mal-nourished and nervous young boy who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a heartwarming friendship with Tom Oakley, the elderly recluse of 40 odd years, since the death of his wife and child. Oakley nourishes and develops Beech until William is suddenly summoned back to London by his mother.

On entering the theatre an open set waited, facing us what appeared to portray four houses. All brick fronted and looking very smart and in time with the period of the piece. As I was sat in the front row and the production is on ground level, I could feel all the energy coming from every player. So, intimate was the setting I could see every expression made by the players.

The director really brought a great piece together. The themes requiring a gentle but stern hand to relay the story and to ensure we found the real message of the piece. So often in this play the silence or what is not said by a character is more important to bring out the rawness and emotion embedded in the script. I cannot thank Kit Phillips enough for bringing this play to the stage in such a manor. So many times, I felt uncomfortable and genuinely heartbroken. The bravery shown by the cast is testament to their director and this cast understood completely what was expected of them. I can imagine so much work was done on each character and their reaction to each situation put in front of them. The opening segment really set the tone for what was going to follow and catapulted us back to the 1940’s. The lining up of each child with name tag, gas mask and a small case of belonging was exceptionally well considered. Young children being sent away from home to the English countryside for safe keeping. Taken out of one traumatic situation and placed into another, meeting a new family and joining a new community, from which they are uncertain if they will ever return to their families in London or if they will even survive this war. This was the start of my personal demise as one glance at the very innocent William Beech left me with tears in my eyes. The production was drenched in thought provoking moments, great acting and high energy really captured the essence of this story. An excellent job done by Kit.

Lighting was wonderful and well plotted and at no point did I feel it was not lit adequately. The nightmare scene in act two gave us great red lighting and it worked extremely well. Sound throughout was great, I was so pleased to see that William Beech had a microphone allowing him to remain so timid and withdrawn but not sacrificing any of his lines. I heard every line which is always a difficult task in a play environment but each character had good projection. The sound clips were of a great quality and of original origin, siren and bombing affects were well designed and added to the piece.

Visually, I loved the lady’s hairstyles and they looked so in keeping with the era. The doctor’s lined stockings were perfect. If I am to nit-pick the hair style for Mr. Stelton didn’t look quite right for this era. In addition I felt the ARP warden costume could have had more attention paid to it an ARP armband, gas Mask and clean shaven would have been effective. HOWEVER, these factors did not deduct from the performance! Overall, the look of the production was delivered well with some very nice 1940’s style. 

The props throughout were of a good standard. They were suitably matched to the set and period. I loved the creativeness of the squirrel and Sammy. Congratulations to the team on their innovation and creativity.

Mister Tom, a fine performance of a wonderful role, he didn’t leave anything unturned in this character, he exposed everything the writer intended. I enjoyed this performance so much that I couldn’t help but feel connected to the character throughout. This actor’s ability to say nothing but convey everything, was genius. His eyes combined with body language told his story especially in your ‘belt and preparation for bed’ scene with William Beech, your eyes were horrified and it was such a great reaction. His interaction with Charlie Stephens was one of complete professionalism and one could see a real bond between the two. We could particularly see his growth pattern from start to finish and what a journey he took us on. The obvious attachment to William Beech was so evident. Congratulations on bringing this wonderful interpretation to the stage.

William Beech, was played by the most innocent of boys and this worked so very well. A beautiful little actor, displaying much skill in this production. A brave young man to play this role exactly as it should be played, with defensive raised shoulders, ‘walking on egg shells’ movement and great reaction to his surroundings. He was such a timid boy which really allowed him to have great development as the story progressed. We could see him slowly coming out of his shell and glimpses of a happy boy popped through. This boy broke my heart I must admit, he acted so well, I was with him every step of his journey, every emotion he was feeling I also felt.
Zach was played with all the wit and merriness required. Excellent performance of the class clown with a heart of gold. Funny and energetic, this young man had us ‘splitting our sides’. Wonderful comic timing from one so young. He used his wit to deliver song and dance throughout. His final moments on stage were very moving “you are my sunshine”, just beautiful. He had great chemistry with everyone he encountered and was so believable. The drama class scenes were exceptionally funny. This young man is one to watch.

Sammy, the dog. I loved this puppet. It added so much to the production. A puppet which brought warmth and some humorous moments also. The young man operating Sammy must be commended for the development of the puppet. Never once did I find it distracting or was I drawn to look at the actor. His use of the puppet was excellent, really getting the shape and movement spot on. At times, I forgot it was a puppet completely.

Ginnie, George, Carrie and Jack all played by lovely young actors. They worked so well as a team, with the taunting of William being a great example. These children played their respective roles so well. They were very clear in their speaking voices and always reacting to the scene they were in. Even considering one of the props breaking they kept the scene moving. What professionalism for ones so young.

Dawn Lloyd, playing roles of Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Beech. Very nice performer in both roles but I really enjoyed her in the role of Mrs. Miller, I can only imagine how she felt playing this role. A good strong face for this role, she made me feel quite uneasy as I wasn’t sure when she was going to have an outburst. I can only think that she has done some research into this type of personality as she played it so well. She worked very well with Charlie.

Hayley Northey played both Annie Hartridge and Nurse, two very different roles to convey. One very caring and motherly as school teacher and the nurse rather grounded and straight. Very good work on each character.

Jane Newey doubling up as Mrs. Fletcher and Sister, again two which were delivered very well. Loved the look for this production. Lovely intervention in the bullying scene added a nice bit of comedy to your role.

Jimmy Dean played several parts on my visit Vicar/Warden/ Man in the post office, you did a great job on each of these roles with great changes to the characters. Nice elements of empathy came through towards the end of the play in your scene with William Beech.

Danni Steele, what a funny guy you are. I really enjoyed your performance of the over cautious Charlie Ruddles, this gave me a real giggle. Both other roles well played well and Mr. Stelton came across as suitably arrogant.

Rose Higgins, very good presentation of Miss Thorne, these scenes were particularly funny and your reaction to the scene was wonderful.

Chele Dean, what a hoot. Two completely different roles played so well. Loved the quirkiness of the doctor. You gave us a good deal of comedy in your scenes. A lovely moment when you were singing “White Cliffs of Dover”. Your facial expressions were so moving here.

Overall this production left me emotional and uplifted in equal measures. I cried my eyes out as it touched me so much. It really showed of the exceptional talent on stage, the rawness of the performance and the attention to detail in each character brought this production to life. It really shows how significant a role people play in each other’s lives and how one person can save another or give back life to something fragile or endangered. How something that starts as a duty can really become something you could never be without.

Best wishes and thank you all for a wonderful evening at the theatre.