REVIEW: Goodnight Mister Tom, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Until May 21
Be prepared to shed a tear at Goodnight Mister Tom.
The war-time drama, from the novel by Michelle Magorian, tracks a young evacuee’s unlikely friendship with an old widower after he is sent from London to Dorset – and it will tug hard at your heart strings.
Tom Oakley (David Troughton) is initially reluctant to take in the young boy, but before long they form a strong bond and a relationship so sweet that it’ll bring a tear to your eye.
Troughton is fantastic as the bitter old man who has shut himself off from the world after losing his wife and child 40 years before.
Watching young William (Alex Taylor-McDowall) chip away his frosty exterior bit by bit is absolutely heart-warming.
Little Taylor-McDowall is a star in the making. He wonderfully captures the torment of his character, who has quite literally had the fear of God beaten into him.
When we first meet William, he’s too scared to lift his head up and keeps his eyes fixed on the floor, but as he warms to the man he affectionately calls Mister Tom, he becomes a happy and joyful boy.
Oliver Loades is fantastic too as the bright and bubbly Zach, another evacuee. His big personality shines as he dances around the stage putting on a show for the other characters. His ability to just let himself go and become lost in his character is way beyond his years.
The show also includes some amazing puppetry, with Elisa De Grey stepping into the role of Tom’s faithful dog Sammy.
She does an absolutely astounding job of bringing the puppet to life. All the sounds she makes, from barking to sniffing and growling, are extremely realistic, and the character is never dropped.
Even when Sammy isn’t really part of the action, he’s sat across the stage licking his paws and rolling onto his back in the hope of receiving a belly scratch. The effect is simply marvellous – it’s easy to forget that it’s not a real dog.
The staging, which appears quite simple at first, turns out to be a lot more intricate when the raised box that the cast have been acting on top of opens up to reveal William’s run-down London home. It looks great.
Goodnight Mister Tom is a truly touching tale of friendship and a harrowing look at life during the war.
I cried because I was happy and I cried because I was sad, but most of all, I cried because I was touched.
Goodnight Mister Tom runs until Saturday, May 21. Click here to book tickets.