A Charming All-Children Production Of Goodnight Mister Tom

Goodnight Mister Tom, Southwark Playhouse ★★★☆☆

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A Charming All-Children Production Of Goodnight Mister Tom Goodnight Mister Tom, Southwark Playhouse 3
Photo: Eliza Wilmot

It can be easy to take good quality theatre for granted, without appreciating the hours of rehearsing and effort that goes into it.

Goodnight Mister Tom, produced by the British Theatre Academy, may have been rawer than a steak tartare sandwich on the talent front, but what its cast of 26 children lacked in polish and experience, is made up for by the shared sense of delight.

Photo: Eliza Wilmot

James Sampson is great as the grouchy and timeworn Tom, who takes in evacuee William as war breaks out. His grumpiness quickly thaws under the influence of his trusting young protegee, and it’s sweetly touching when he’s called on to save the boy from a miserable home situation.

There are thoughtful details, from the waggling dog operated by a winsome Bradley Riches, to the six evacuees who patiently sit as part of the scenery, listeners to the story and participants. Russell Brand once said that growing up is a travesty of youth — we grow up to be contradictory, confusing people, or we lose our sense of play and wonder. So it’s a challenge for children, with all their straightforwardness and lack of embittered experiences to portray the adult figures in this war-torn world. That the best performance of the night is William, a child acting as a child, is not a surprise. Evan Huntley-Robertson’s William has the simple quality of luminescence, drawing your attention to watch.

Photo: Eliza Wilmot

In itself, Goodnight Mister Tom is a perfectly executed production of an old-fashioned and much-loved story. Perhaps it could have been better with adults in the leading roles, but that would have robbed it of its charm.

Goodnight Mister Tom, Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD. Tickets £20/£12, until 25 August 2018.

Last Updated 02 August 2018