Théâtre (2011)


This stage adaptation of Michelle Magorian's moving 1981 novel for children, Goodnight Mister Tom has everything that tugs the heart strings and stimulates the tear ducts. But it is also splendidly faithful to the book's remarkable depiction of the darkness of death and mental illness, bullying, bigotry and parental cruelty. And in Angus Jackson's production it has moments of enchanting comedy courtesy of the alternating teams of very appealing child performers.

When William Beach arrives as an evacuee in Dorset, even well-meaning locals reckon that he has drawn the short straw in being billeted on the curmudgeonly widower, Mister Tom. The boy is bruised, illiterate, baffled by kindness. The old man is gruff, wary of displays of emotion and semi-reclusive since the death in childbed of his wife and daughter 41 years before. They gradually form a bond. But William is summoned back to London by his abusive mother, only to be discovered by Mister Tom, after an air raid, locked in a closet and cradling the corpse of a baby girl.

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