NODA REVIEW - Goodnight Mister Tom

NODA REVIEW - Goodnight Mister Tom

Sleaford Little Theatre is a National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) member. At every SLT Production, we invite NODA to attend and review our shows and then put them forward (if they are worthy) for nomination at the NODA Awards.

NODAs vision is that amateur theatre is successful and sustainable, providing a range of opportunities for people to develop their skills and enjoy taking part at all levels.

A huge congratulations to Director Garry Goodge, the cast and crew and everyone who has had some input to the show to make it such a sell-out success.

We'd like to thank Julie Jones for attending and for the following review of Goodnight, Mister Tom.

Sleaford Little Theatre

September 2022

One of the most uplifting stories ever written, Michelle Magorian’s stunning Goodnight Mister Tom is brought gloriously to life in this Sleaford Little Theatre stage adaptation.

Set during the dark and dangerous build-up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows sad young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and builds a remarkable and moving friendship with the elderly reclusive curmudgeon Tom Oakley. All seems perfect until William is devastatingly summoned by his mother back to London. William is an illiterate, bruised, and starving Deptford evacuee. Tom Oakley nourishes him physically and emotionally until William’s mother calls for his return to London. William travels back to Deptford as the Blitz continues around him. With no father figure (his father had died several years earlier), his mother, who is a militant Christian of the fire-and-brimstone variety, again influences his emotional demise as she abusively raises a "found" baby daughter. Mr Tom and his dog Sam rescue William, but it does not look like the happy ending we hope, as the authorities try to step in to put William in a home.

I was blown away by the magnificent staging at Sleaford Little Theatre. The set (designed by Garry Goodge) was engaging and very detailed, including props and images from the correct era which enhanced the story telling. The sound effects and lighting, the steam train and kettle sounds all brought the story to life. Lighting – Alec Hill and Nathaniel McAlpine, sound Callum Thursby and Daniel Johnson enhanced the action. The hand painted back drops of St Pauls in London and the Dorset countryside reminiscent of the Railway tourist images were both detailed and exactly right for the play. Painting team Mary Newman, David Malkin, Terry Hayes, Simon Bradford, Garry Goodge and Brian Grant – well done. The set itself, was adaptable, with clever use of space and stage props included two cottages, a London flat, an attic bedroom, a shop, a library, a street, the churchyard, garden, two stations - including steam trains, a London bomb shelter and probably more that I cannot at this moment remember. Wow! Set construction by Clive Musson, David Malkin, Terry Hayes, Simon Bradford, Garry Goodge, and Brian Grant, obviously a dream team!

Craig Pakes played the curmudgeonly, lonely Tom Oakley. Such a gentle hand, under played but with beautifully strength. I enjoyed Craigs portrayal very much, his relationships with the other villagers and children were perfect. But the warmth and strength of his relationship and characterisation with William was masterful. Charlie Harris played the sad, desperate, William Beech. A superb performance that had the audience enthralled. To demonstrate the full range of emotions, where with loving care, a young person can slowly change both physically and emotionally was amazing. Both actors created a realistic relationship which was central to the story and yet told in subtle ways.

The children who played the evacuees and school children Emily McNally, Arthur Flannery, Anna Harrison and Elizabeth Fearn were all excellent, but portraying the emotions of youngsters being evacuated was particularly well done. A poignant little scene which plucked at my heartstrings. Harriet Tacey played George Fletcher. (As well as being in the Ensemble.) I would like to commend her for her performance, such clever characterisation and subtle portrayal of emotion and extraordinary expressive face. A real treat to watch on stage.

Fin Barnes plays William’s playmate Zach. Another evacuee, but he has much more eager energy than William and Fin played him with ostentatious and flamboyant style. His characterisation of the smiling, happy, bubbly boy, who speaks fast and always ready with a joke or a song, was brilliant.

Special mention to the Colette Buchanan-Gray who played the autocratic billeting officer at the start of the play with acerbic British upper crust accent and forthright manner, then later she plays Gladys, who leads a sing along during the blitz as the neighbours of Deptford shelter underground. Both performances were excellent, confident and with just enough comic value to lift both scenes.

The beautiful portrayal of Sammy the black and white dog by Kelly Anderson was masterful, I really enjoyed Kelly’s attention to detail and use of body language of herself and the puppet. Such a skilled performance and mesmerising to watch on stage. Really well done.

Other actors, Rob Norris, playing the London ARP Warden, Charlotte Briggs playing Miss Miller, Sophie Woodrow-Morton playing the nurse, Laura Davies playing Mrs Beech, Hayley Goymer playing Mrs Hartridge, Charlotte Shearsby played the Nursing Sister and Social Worker, Tracey Inkpin played a warm motherly Mrs Fletcher, Terry Hayes played the Ticket Collector, all gave competent, confident performances. The ensemble adults were excellent, moving about the stage, creating scenes, changing scenes and acting together in a very professional way. I can’t fault them. Helen Hill, Tony Gordon, Mary Rudkin, Linda Mallett, Socrates Elides were all very good. Eliza and Ruby Hughes played Ginnie and Carrie, in a very authentic way. Richard Bridgen played Dr Little and Andy Canadine played Charle Ruddles, David Hartridge and the Vicar, both players gave really great performances and their characterisation was excellent. Such a large cast, I hope I have not missed anyone. I must also give a huge round of applause to is the costume co-ordinator, Heather Goodge. For a start there were so many pieces of costume, but the authenticity was excellent. I could see the adapting, reusing, and upcycling must have been a challenge, but one you managed beautifully. The palette of colours, the uniforms, even the bags and shoes seemed perfect. Helen Hill, who organised props managed to create an authentic feel to every scene, very well done. Makeup and hair (Nancy Warnes) can sometimes be overlooked in an amateur show, yet again this attention to detail was not missing here. I noticed from the program that Jackie Lawrence was knitwear technician, some very authentic jumpers, hats and a balaclava where created, which were essential to the story. Certain large props appeared, a vintage baby carriage and boys’ bike, (the bike on loan from Boston Cycle Club), and a vintage hospital wheelchair. You must have an amazing property storage facility and the imagination to bring all these elements together.

I really enjoyed chatting to the cast after the performance and especially meeting the younger members of the cast and hearing how much they have enjoyed being in the show. Well done to the casting team and a big thank you to the chaperones without whom the young cast members would not have been able to be involved. (Joanne Moules, Maria Bates, and Brian Grant.) Promotion, photography and the program by Craig Pakes and Maria Bates really worked well together which resulted in sell out performances for the whole run, really well done.

All in all, a masterful rendition of Goodnight Mr Tom, directed with an impressive eye for detail by Garry Goodge. Your attention to each element, your embellishment to the set, the characters you directed and impressive overall feel of the war years, was amazing. Finally, a mention the Sleaford Little Theatre which, as ever, demonstrates the need for community theatres, run for amateur groups and professional touring companies. A pleasure to visit and as always, a warm welcome form Christine Malkin (Chairperson) as I arrived. Thank you.