Goodnight Mister Tom Reviews

The high standard set by Neston Players was once again on display in their production of “Goodnight Mr Tom.” It is the last in their series “Great Centenary War Project”. Many might be surprised at the choice. It does not of course deal with the immediate action of the war itself but takes on a journey to the latter part of 1939, prior to and immediately after the start of the second world war. 

 

A play by David Wood, it is based on the children's novel of the same name by Michelle Magorian. The play earned the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and deals with the tribulations of an evacuee and its effect on the principal character “Mr Tom” an elderly curmudgeon who has lived alone in a country environment for forty years since the death of his wife and baby son. Scenarios, not unlike this could well have happened at the time when 1000s of children from different backgrounds were uplifted from the cities and taken to live in the country you might be struck by the story's debt to Oliver Twist; in both, a serially abused boy is rescued, and briefly lost, by a solitary senior. 
Martin Riley has done a wonderful job in directing this piece. He had an excellent cast many of whom had to play several parts and his ability to handle the myriad characters in their different guises and situations was quite remarkable.

 

Unafraid to target and reach out to his emotions Adam Cusack as William touchingly conveys the flowering of the crushed child whose blossoming friendship with Zach gives him access to a world he has hardly dreamt of before. Zach another but entirely different evacuee, is played by Jack Sibbo whose outrageously over-the-top performance lights up the stage. Both of the boys created performances far in advance of their years . It is the relationship that William builds with Mr Tom and Zach which is the cornerstone of this excellent tale.

 

The eponymous hero of the play was splendidly played by Charles Rileyas Mr Tom. Totally in control of his role he was utterly believable in every aspect of the character. One cannot imagine that even such an actor as John Thaw who played it in the film version could have made a better fist of it; excellent.

 

Very valuable support came from Grace Prytherch, Annabel Jones and Kristopher Duffin as the local children. Called on to play more than one part they were all three strong in their characterisation despite their youthful ages. Far to go these three.
Conor AndersonPamela Button, Alan Alan Les HollandLiz JonesMandy Taylor and Jane Wing Wing covered much territory in playing various members of the local community, officialdom, Londoners, I loved the bus scene, and the lady who was Williams’s mother. Congratulations to all of you.

 

I have saved my final cast word for Sammy the Dog and Puppeteer Ruth Stenhouse and it is MAGNIFICENT. An astonishing performance which must have been physically demanding bending over to hold and move such a large puppet but all the more when one sees every aspect of the Dogs behaviour re-enacted in the puppeteers face.

 

The costumes were great as was the clever way the set was designed In fact the whole backstage team did a fine job.

 

Well done to you all, Budge

Budge - 07/11/18

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