Latest posts by Scott Balf (see all)
- Theatre review: Wicked – Palace Theatre, Manchester - 6 December, 2018
- Shrek The Musical – Manchester Palace Theatre – Review - 18 January, 2018
- Review: Sunset Boulevard – Palace Theatre, Manchester - 24 October, 2017
Someone call the emotion police because I’m wounded. Wounded deep in my soul. I saw the stage adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom at Manchester’s Opera House and it went in dry because I am raw. Red raw. Emotionally raw. I was a mess, sobbing like a disturbed child.
There are two types of crying: Kim-Kardashian-scrunched-up-ugly blubbing and silent-tears-streaming-down-your-cheeks weeping. Goodnight Mister Tom brought on the latter.
Now that isn’t me saying that it was bad, because it was crazy good. Honestly, it was fucking fantastic. Me gusta.
I read Goodnight Mister Tom in school and, of course, I hated it because I was forced to read it, but for some reason it always held a special place in my heart – probably because it was one of the few books I actually read when I was younger.
At first I wasn’t sure how the novel could be translated to the stage, but I was rooting for it so hard to impress me and it did not disappoint. Not one little bit.
The only thing that I didn’t like was the platoon of latecomers that came in 10 minutes late and disturbed the whole audience – if looks could kill, I swear…
The staging of the show was everything it needed to be and it was perfect. Tom Oakley’s house literally drawbridged open to reveal William Beech’s grubby London house when Willy was called back home, and the prop transitions were flawless.
I’m trying to write this and I’m stopping every so often so I can sigh and just think about how good and beautiful and touching it was. Mr. David Wood, you did good by writing this play, and Mr. Angus Jackson, I take my hat off to you for your direction.
My MVP was William. My favourite emotionally-battered and physically-abused evacuee. Alex Taylor-McDowall filled Will’s hand-me-down boots and with every terrified flinch or thought of his awful mother I felt the fear with him. I also felt the love that he developed for Tom.
I filled up when he hid under the table when Tom pulled out the belt. I filled up when he climbed under the bed to sleep. And when Tom rescued him from being tied up in his cupboard my face looked like Spongebob’s when he leaves water and he looked like a dried-up ballsack. This was because there was not a single drop of moisture left in my body because of my tears. I was was a wreck. He was sublime. Bravo.
David Troughton did a pretty fabulous job of playing bitter, old recluse Tom Oakley, too. I always remember in the book I thought he was a knob at first, but that’s just because he was a grumpy old man and I don’t respond well to grumpy people.
David, I instantly warmed to though, and as the play progressed and he opened up more, my fondness grew, and now, as an adult, I get it. I get him. We liked it. He can stay.
And also honourable mention to Elisa De Grey who was the puppeteer that controlled Mister Tom’s dog, Sammy. When she first came on holding the puppet it was like, ‘Okay, there’s lady holding a dog puppet and barking, I can roll with this. ‘ But after about 10 seconds she vanished and all I could see was Sammy. It was a perfect piece of stage puppetry. Sammy was phenomenal, so well done, Elisa. Snaps for you. Also the lady who had control of the squirrel puppet, you were fab. That squirrel was cute AF.
The show is great. I highly recommend it for anyone, young and old. It’s full of heart and emotion. Got me right in the feels. It’s showing at the Opera House in Manchester until Saturday 27th and then moving onto Milton Keynes, then Glasgow and other places until the end of April.