Goodnight Mister Tom

A charming production based on Michelle Magorian’s popular children's novel, about the friendship between a London evacuee and an elderly recluse.
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Born of her mother’s stories about working as a nurse during the London Blitz, Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom has, since its publication in 1981, become a worldwide literary success. Over the intervening decades, this confronting yet charming children’s tale has been adapted for film and television, translated into 11 languages, and received a series of prestigious accolades internationally. Successfully uniting the generations, and vividly portraying human emotion in its rawest of forms – love and loss – Goodnight Mister Tom has now arrived in Glasgow to charm and inspire audiences all over again.       

Olivier Award-winner Oliver Ford Davies reprises his role as Mister Tom and leads a highly professional and experienced cast, while six talented child actors have been cast in the roles of Zach and William. Arthur Gledhill Franks, Jamie Goldberg and Ewan Harris alternate the role of William, while Joseph Holgate, Thiago Los and William Price share the role of Zach.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood and directed by Angus Jackson, Goodnight Mister Tom is set in one of the most harrowing and memorable periods of modern history; the eve of the Second World War. What sets the production apart from similar tales is its unique development around a nine year old protagonist: the poor, abused and shy evacuee from London, William Beech.

Set in early September 1939, when the declaration of war was still imminent, Wood’s 90 minute adaptation revolves around William’s escape from his abusive home in London and his new life in Dorset, where he is billeted by the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley.

Davies, Harris and Price in particular effortlessly develop the unique personas of their characters; their success is evidenced by the audience’s immediate engagement. Davies and Harris work well together to establish an endearing, affectionate and charming on-stage bond between Mister Tom and William; a bond that continues to flourish and grow throughout the performance. Representing the epitome of innocence, William is aptly portrayed with a sense of vulnerability and frailty, while Zach keeps the audience’s spirits high with his on-stage antics and over-the-top enthusiasm. The undeniable show-stealer, however, is Sam the dog, whose creative portrayal and loyalty to his two masters, wins the hearts of all.

Set in both London and Dorset, the play successfully portrays the striking contrast between William’s two realities: his past and his present. Both realities are magnificently realised by way of rigorous attention to detail. Costumes, props, make-up and regional dialects all compliment the cast’s delivery, as does the effective use of space on stage by way of a well thought-out and constructed set, combined with the creative lighting and sound design. The imaginative manifestations of a dream sequence, and of local fauna, further emphasise the strengths of this production.  

Wood’s Goodnight Mister Tom is manages to accurately capture the essence, emotion and conviction of Magorian’s original masterpiece, while Jackson’s direction hones in on the importance of love, the heartache of loss, and the characters’ passion for survival. A highly commendable work.   

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

Goodnight Mister Tom

Based on the book by Michelle Magorian

Adapted by David Wood

Directed by Angus Jackson

The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

2 – 6 April

Additional performances:

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

9 – 13 April

Taryn Pollock
About the Author
Taryn Pollock is a reviewer for ArtsHub. Formerly based in Australia, she has now returned to Glasgow, where she also contributes to the website