Just try not to cry
WHEN World War II drama Goodnight Mister Tom is performed at the Everyman Theatre next week, there is likely to be a diverse mix of ages making up the audience.
Pensioners will be sitting next to primary school children, grandparents to grandchildren – and that's just the way it should be, according to author Michelle Magorian.
"You get people who were evacuees during the war sitting next to young children and I think that's lovely," she said.
"I love the fact that it appeals to all ages and that they all come together in the same place to share the experience."
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The critically-acclaimed adaptation of Michelle's award-winning book is coming to Cheltenham directly from its sell-out West End run.
Set during the dark and dangerous build-up to the World War II, Goodnight Mister Tom follows London schoolboy William Beech, who is evacuated to the English countryside and builds a remarkable friendship with elderly recluse Tom Oakley.
All seems perfect until William is devastatingly summoned back to London by his abusive mother.
Adapted for stage by David Wood, the story is both dark and uplifting and addresses some very uncomfortable issues.
Now watched by children in their final year at primary school, Michelle admitted she was surprised when she learned 10 and 11-year-olds would be studying the book.
"I didn't really write it for children that young and I was worried about how they would react to certain parts of it," she said.
"When I visit schools to talk about the book, I won't talk to the younger children about the mother.
"But I also think that young children tend to concentrate on different aspects to stories that perhaps adults would.
"When my son was young he read HG Wells' War of the Worlds in which there are some really horrific scenes, but he was far more interested in the Martian machines than anything else."
The part of Mr Tom was played in the film by John Thaw, whose performance was much acclaimed by critics and the public alike.
In the stage version, veteran British actor Oliver Ford Davies takes on the role and Michelle is delighted with his performance.
"It was a hard act to follow and Oliver had a lot to live up to but his performance is absolutely marvellous," she said.
Winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, Goodnight Mister Tom is now a worldwide literary favourite.
Goodnight Mister Tom runs at the Everyman from Tuesday to Saturday, March 16, with shows at 7pm and a matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Tickets range from £10 to £25. Call 01242 572573.