Michelle Magorian's novel, Goodnight Mister Tom is a favourite on the school curriculum due to it's deft depiction of the 1939 evacuation programme – a time which must seem like ancient history to most children today. Thankfully, The Children's Touring Partnership's stage version currently running at the Lowry Theatre is here to bring the story to life once more.
The play begins with William arriving at Mister Tom's house in the country, having being evacuated from his London home. As Tom provides the care that William has been missing from his own abusive mother, the two learn to trust each other and find their lives, though certainly not free from adversity, transformed as a result.
All of the performances are worth commenting on but three are particularly noteworthy: Toby Prynne's 'William' blossoms from a timid, silent boy into a loving and vivacious son in a surprisingly mature portrayal from this young actor; even his posture alters as he sheds the coat of sadness that is his former life. Oliver Ford Davies' Mister Tom displays a warmth and empathy towards his young ward that makes us believe he was destined to be a father. Meanwhile, Laura Cubitt puppeteers Tom's dog, Sammy, as if she is an extension of the animal itself, imitating gestures that are instantly recognisable to any past or present owners of a Border Collie.
Goodnight Mister Tom is an uplifting story that, despite it's clear placing in a particular point in history, hasn't become any less poignant over time. Judging by tonight's audience, it continues to be just as popular with adults as it is with children.