We were kindly invited to see and review the opening night of Goodnight Mister Tom at the Cheltenham Playhouse on Friday night. We previously reviewed Cheltenham Operatic and Dramatic Society performing Madness The Musical, which was fantastic and had all the crowd on their feet at the end. Likewise, Goodnight Mister Tom was another fantastic show, albeit with a bit more of a somber although uplifting storyline. The acting was utterly brilliant as, without a doubt the performers were their characters, with the two main characters Mr Tom (Jason Blackburn) and William (Lex Recine), perfectly cast and executed. We loved Sammy the puppet dog, providing such humour and affection, along with evacuee Zach who was just what such hard hitting topics require – some good old light humour.
I also have to mention straight away, the many young actors who were absolutely fantastic, especially as not only is Goodnight Mister Tom a play filled with the close to home realities of World War II, it is also coupled with the horrors of child abuse (not really a spoiler as this is apparent very early on). For the young children to act with such accuracy and just so brilliantly, was a wonder to watch.
We were immersed in the story from the second William arrived at Mister Tom’s cottage. We wanted him to be happy, eagerly following as their relationship grew and friendships developed, juxtaposed with the horrors of war and horrific child abuse, along with their respective consequences. Several twists along the way kept the audience recoiling in shock and sadness, while the light humour provided so brilliantly, particularly by Zach, kept us boyant as we watched the growing affection between William and Mister Tom as he settled and grew in his new home. We really were along for the journey.
We felt William’s joy at his achievements, and felt relieved and proud as he made friends and learned to read. We rooted for William and Zach’s friendship from the second they met and enjoyed seeing him coming out of his shell as he joined the play. The kindness and humour so perfectly provided by Dr. Little (Neil Morgan) was in stark contrast to the cruel and horrifying Mrs Beech (Sophie Flowers), to the extent we almost felt relief at hearing of her death. Fantastic portrayals of both characters.
If you haven’t got tickets, there are only a few left, and the show finishes on Saturday the 8th of February… So do get tickets quick if you can.
Back to the show…
To surmise, CODS deliver a fabulous, gripping performance with brilliant acting and a few laughs along the way.
We felt absolutely immersed in the story throughout. The hard hitting topics which arose made the audience feel the horror, recoiling at the child abuse scenes, gasps and absolute sadness with each character lost, while we all prayed for a wonderful happily ever after for William, but also for William and Mister Tom together. For every step of the journey the perfectly cast cast, delivered without fail.
If you’re local to Cheltenham and free this week, do grab one of the last tickets, but have your hankies ready. You’ll need it!