The return of David Wood's new stage adaptation of Michelle Magorian's novel Goodnight Mister Tom in London starring David Troughton as 'Tom' and directed by Angus Jackson.
Michelle Magorian's novel Goodnight Mister Tom is set during the dark and dangerous build up to the Second World War. William Beech is evacuated out of London to the countryside were he builds a remarkable and moving friendship with the elderly recluse Tom Oakley, but then his mother brings him back to London...
Goodnight Mister Tom was originally published in 1981, winning the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and was made into 1998 BAFTA award winning movie starring John Thaw. This stage production was first seen at the Chichester Festival Theatre in February 2011 before it transferred to London's Phoenix Theatre when it previewed from 22 November 2012, opened on 27 November 2012 and closed on 26 January 2013. Oliver Ford Davies played the role of 'Mister Tom' at both the 2011 Chichester Festival Theatre and the 2012 Phoenix Theatre seasons.
"Goodnight Mister Tom is not without sentimentality. It's probably best seen with children (aged 8 and up) in tow. And, good as Angus Jackson's production is, it could go even farther in making something thoroughly, fluidly theatrical of this story. But it is an absorbing, amusing and moving account of displaced lives, tough as well as gooey as it shows a simpler age in which bread, chocolate and emotions are all subject to rationing. The designer, Robert Innes Hopkins, uses some ace period knitwear and a few well-chosen props to summon up Mr Tom 's house by the graveyard, or the schoolroom where William's show-offy friend Zach performs his musical routine. And then transforms it dramatically but speedily into the squalid london flat where we meet William's alarming mother... As Mr Tom, a man who has allowed grief to curdle him, Oliver Ford Davies is admirably matter-of-fact as he allows himself to thaw without getting soppy." The Times
"David Wood's adaptation of Michelle Magorian's marvellous novel is full of lovable characters. But the one I wanted to take home was Sammy, old Mister Tom's beloved collie. Brought to snuffling life by a few sweaters and puppetry-performer Elisa de Grey, Sammy is the first creature to reach out to the damaged young evacuee William Beech when, with war imminent, he is billeted with gruff old recluse Tom Oakley... Designer Robert Innes Hopkins captures wartime England with impressive economy. The clumping shoes, the gas-mask boxes, the chain-smoking GP, the period advertisements to Eat Less Bread are all spot-on. Most vivid of all is the crushing oppression of the squalid Deptford slum, revealed when the stage is hauled up, where William's religious maniac mother hides him and her new baby like guilty secrets. As are the unmistakable sounds of the time: air-raid sirens, dance tunes, playground ditties in which the children taunt the 'vaccy vermin' from the city and another in which Hitler is told where he can stick his gas mask. Of course it's oversimplified, but it is also admirably unsentimental until the end, when the 'dad' word slips out of William's mouth. But by then there's not a dry eye in the house." The Mail on Sunday
Prior to the original staging, original cast member Oliver Ford Davies explained about his role as 'Mister Tom': "The story is about two very damaged people who are brought together by the war. William has been ill treated by his mother who is mentally unstable and we learn that Tom is a man who has cut himself off from the village after his young wife died in childbirth 40 years earlier. The story shows how they come to depend on each other and how they blossom and change. The hardest part is to decide just when I can stop being gruff and start becoming a man who everyone can really relate to. Because Tom does not just change in his relationship with William, he also changes in his relationships with others. Everyone is surprised when he attends a village meeting and offers to become a fire warden."
The author Michelle Magorian says: "It took me four years to write Goodnight Mister Tom. I was acting in plays at the time and so I carried the manuscript all around the country. It started as a short story - I wrote about ten of them, and the tenth was Tom and William meeting. When they came together, I just had to know what happened next... Because the book is set during the Second World War if I saw anybody who looked old enough to have been involved, I'd go up to them and say: 'I'm researching a book, would you mind talking to me about your experiences?'... I've been so surprised by Goodnight Mister Tom's success. I've been thinking 'why, 30 years later, is it still on the shelf?' I wonder if it's because it's about two people who have been hurt, and that's something that most people can connect with. I'm very excited about the stage adaptation, and very intrigued. They're going to use a puppeteer who worked on War Horse, the Michael Morpurgo story, for Tom's dog."
David Wood's stage adaptations seen in London's West End include Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Lyric Theatre July 2012) and Roald Dahl's The Witches (Wyndham's Theatre March 2005). Amongst Oliver Ford Davies' West End stage credits are playing opposite Joan Plowright in Franco Zeffirelli's revival of Luigi Pirandello's Absolutely! (perhaps) (Wyndham's Theatre May 2003), playing the role of 'Polonius' opposite David Tennant as 'Hamlet' and Patrick Stewart as 'Claudius' in Gregory Doran's revival of Shakespeare's Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company (Novello Theatre December 2008). Angus Jackson West End credits include Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version (Harold Pinter Theatre April 2012); the 'Blondie' musical Desperately Seeking Susan (Novello Theatre November 2007); and Kwame Kwei-Armah's Elmina's Kitchen (Garrick Theatre April 2005).
Goodnight Mister Tom in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 11 December 2015, opened on 17 December 201 and closed on 20 February 2016.