Theatre review Goodnight Mr Tom at Bridewell Theatre

Isaac Insley (left) with Michael Gibson

Isaac Insley (left) with Michael Gibson - Credit: Archant

Harrowing and heart warming, the tale of a badly abused war evacuee carries a message of hope for those who see it this Christmas.

Goodnight Mr Tom, the musical written by the author of the book, Michelle Magorian, is a treat for the whole family, as it balances its dark undertones with its celebration of friendships between people.

Directed by Allan Stronach, the story begins at the onset of war where millions of children are to be evacuated. Eight -year old William, captured perfectly by Michael Gibson, is sent from Deptford to Dorset to live with Mr Tom Oakley, a widower and recluse, who notices bruises on the boy and softens towards him.

There the vulnerable, shy child is befriended by another evacuee Zach, artfully played by Isaac Insley, who delivers the humour with a deadpan insouciance and charm.

As William’s life improves he’s sent back to live with his cruel and selfish mother, (Cathy McMannon), who is terrifying as the mental and totally unhinged abuser who has given birth to a daughter.

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The Tower Theatre Company actors deliver convincing and tender performances, navigating through emotive scenes with ease. In the country Villagers gossip as they carry props on and off the stage while the return to London is stark and dark in comparison, silence marking these exchanges.

The singing of Gary Carpenter’s score isn’t always X Factor but is rousing in chorus and great fun for the audience. Hankies at the ready though - there’s no pulling back from the horrors of war but nor any sinking into sentimentality of a bygone era. The power of this show is in its simple retelling.

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Bridewell Theatre, 14 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8EQ 18 - 21 December. 7.30pm. Matinee 21 December 3pm. Tickets £14 standard, £13 concession and cheaper online.

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