Review: Goodnight Mister Tom, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
GRAB a granny. Or if age precludes that possibility, grab a grandchild instead.
David Wood, author of this splendid play, has said that every schoolchild should be able to go to the theatre at least once for free.
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So those clever Everyman people turned his idea around – this week every child can bring a grandparent free. The result – a packed auditorium, and a great evening that bridged the ages, on-stage and off.
The story tells of wartime evacuee William Beech, brilliantly played on the opening night by 11-year-old Ewan Harris, taken from an abusive home in London, to a reclusive one in Dorset.
His new guardian is 'Mister Tom,' whose life spark went out when his wife died many years before. By the time William and Tom have rescued each other from neglect and loneliness, I felt a lump in my throat the size of a barrage balloon.
The excellent Oliver Ford Davies, a master of intelligent understatement, perfectly captures the old man's dignity and humanity.
Only such an assured actor could ignore the advice not to act with children or animals – especially with such terrific performances around him.
Child actors must dream of parts such as the maddeningly precocious and stage-struck evacuee Zach, and 12-year-old William Price shows off all those drama school skills to dazzling effect, including a nifty bit of sword swirling.
Meanwhile Elisa de Grey almost steals the show without saying a word, as the puppeteer of the amazingly realistic dog Sammy. "Where can I get one like that?" someone asked.
Sentimental, funny, affectionate, but jagged-edged too. Take granny. Take anyone. They deserve a good cry.
Goodbye Mister Tom runs until Saturday. Tickets available by calling 01242 572573.