Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Review: Goodnight Mister Tom (UK Tour) at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Goodnight Mister Tom (UK Tour)
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 26th March 2013

"Set during the dark and dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows sad William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and builds a remarkable and moving friendship with the elderly recluse Tom Oakley. All seems perfect until William is devastatingly summoned by his mother back to London."

Night after night I go to the theatre and often I am taken into worlds of fiction. However, while watching Goodnight Mister Tom an elderly gentleman behind me started singing along to the songs which were sung during the war, reminding me that people actually went through what I was watching. Unfortunately I was watching a world of reality, Goodnight Mister Tom is a real eye opener.

It is no secret that Goodnight Mister Tom tells a sad story, but thankfully the show begins with some gentle humour which helps to ease the audience in slowly. While scene changes often run smoothly, the scenes sometimes feel a little disjointed. Having said that Goodnight Mister Tom has good pace, scenes do not drag on and the show is consistently engaging. I was impressed with Robert Innes Hopkins' set design which at a glance looks simple, but as the show progresses we are cleverly taken to many different places.

I enjoyed the use of puppetry in the show. It is greatly effective and requires the audience to use their imaginations (which is usually a good thing!). The main puppet featured is Mister Tom's dog, Sammy. It was visually incredible to watch the puppet come alive and pull at my heart strings, puppeteer Elisa De Grey does an outstanding job (see picture below).

My favourite character in the show was Zach, who was played at the performance I saw by Thiago Los. Zach brings a great deal of colour and warmth to Goodnight Mister Tom, not only with his crazy stripy jumper but also with his eccentric persona. There is no doubt that the younger kids in the cast steal the show as Jamie Goldberg was also perfect as William Beech. It is quite inspiring to see a young actor conquer such a demanding and emotionally challenging role. Oliver Ford Davies, who is a little more experienced, also gives a strong performance as Tom Oakley. I enjoyed watching the character's journey.

Act Two sees some horrific events take place. More could have been done with certain moments of heartbreak as I felt I needed more time to emotionally digest the tragic events for them be be effective. Therefore, unfortunately Goodnight Mister Tom becomes a play full of missed opportunities.

Before seeing Goodnight Mister Tom yesterday, I was at the May Fair Hotel for the announcement of the Olivier Award nominations. It was revealed that Goodnight Mister Tom has been nominated for Best Entertainment and Family Show (it is eligible as it had a limited West End engagement prior to the UK Tour). But I think Goodnight Mister Tom is more than your average family show, it is relatable for grandparents and educational for the younger generations, bringing the entire family together. While something seems to be missing from this production, it still makes a compelling evening at the theatre.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Goodnight Mister Tom runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 30th March 2013. 

Click here to book tickets and view tour dates.

Photo Credit: Catherine Ashmore

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