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Goodnight Mr Tom

Date

27th October 2017

Society

Wellworth Players

Venue

Needingworth Village Hall

Type of Production

Play

Director

Mark Hebert

Musical Director

Neil Kohler

Report

Author: Julie Armstrong

Goodnight Mr Tom is such a lovely piece of theatre and a great choice by the Wellworth Players for their autumn production. As I arrived at Needingworth Village Hall it was clear that the cast would be playing to a packed house, which is great for the performers, although felt a little cramped from the audience’s perspective. However, plaudits are due for selling so many tickets and it is fantastic that lots of local people came to watch the production.

With twenty seven named characters in the programme and twelve in the ensemble it was clear that this small space was perhaps going to feel a little overcrowded, however, with great direction from Mark Hebert, everything flowed smoothly and seamlessly - even the lack of wing space did not seem to hinder this production and the set (by Boggle) worked well within the space. 

The opening scene introduced us to the children, who make up a large part of this production, singing their way from the back of the hall to the stage. I immediately knew that this was going to be a quality piece, with super costumes and lovely attention to detail. The next delight was Sammy the collie dog, a beautiful life-size puppet, created by Marie Quick, and brought to life by Becca Webb. I found myself watching the dog and wanting to pet him - Becca, you did a great job of keeping him interesting to watch when the action was taking place elsewhere - well done!

Now on to our ‘living’ characters! Mr Tom was a absolute delight, played beautifully by Paul Silver. If I have one tiny doubt it would be that, Paul, you were just too nice! I would have liked even more  from the character in the opening scenes to establish him as a grumpy old man and a recluse, until we see that William has won him round and brought him out of himself. More of a contrast would have worked well here and you would have had somewhere to go with him. However, I am being particularly picky here, as I did like your portrayal, the mannerisms and accent were lovely and you won the hearts of the audience as we saw your love for William grow. Well done.

Toby Smith, did an excellent job as the shy, scared little boy, William Beech. It was lovely to see the character develop and become the bright, happy child that he was at the end of the piece - congratulations Toby on some lovely, sensitive acting here. Also worthy of a mention is James Webb who took on the role of Zach with great professionalism. This part is so crucial to the piece that it has to be played with much confidence and enthusiasm - and James, you had this in spades! A super job young man - keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing you in future productions.  All of the children were  superb, their singing and acting were professional throughout, with good projection and diction most of the time, especially when left to their own devices whilst building the Anderson shelter, without any adults on stage with them - a great scene and a good job throughout the play, well done kids!

It is important to encourage young people into our societies, as they are the next generation of performers and will keep the company alive. It is often easy to incorporate children into panto, but I was pleased to see so many children involved in a play where they can learn their craft and gain an appreciation for the world of theatre.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces in the adult cast again and everyone did a splendid job - with particular mentions for Neal Dench as Doctor Little, Francesca Mann in both of her roles, Maggie Redgrave, Karen Bays - and finally Chris Thompson who appeared to be everywhere! Emily Moore as the mother of William was delightfully unhinged and unfeeling towards her children and we disliked you immensely - well done!

As always with Wellworth, production values were good, with a nice, if somewhat minimal set in this tricky space, and superb musical direction from Neil Kohler. It would have been simple to go for the easy option of recorded music in this piece, but live music added another element - the selection of songs was perfect and had the audience tapping their feet and singing along, especially during the fish and chip interval. Lovely! The lighting was simple - but the spotlight at the end of Act 1 made it a particularly poignant close to the first half, similarly when Zach died. There was good use of sound effects although the volume levels perhaps needed adjusting for some of them - when Mrs Beech went to put the kettle on I thought it was going to explode! I am assured that this was corrected for the remaining performances. Costumes and make up were authentic and added to the feel of the piece, helping to create the atmosphere and feel of the era. 

Thank you Wellworth Players for a very pleasant evening and I look forward to your next production.