By Helen Shingler:
HATS recently concluded a very successful 6 night run (split over two weeks) of the wonderful ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’. The play was originally published as a children’s book in the early 1980’s by the author Michelle Magorian and has won several awards.
It is the story of young Willie Beech (played by Felix Bennett) evacuated from London to the country at the brink of WWII. A sad and deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley (played by Grant Fulcher) who is himself somewhat reclusive, still grieving the loss of his wife and baby after decades alone. Tom also teaches Willie to read and to write and the boy makes friends with one other lad in particular named Zach (played by Archie Gough).
Willie’s new found happiness is shattered when his mother summons him back to London because she needs him, writing in a letter that she is ill. Tom begins to worry as Willie has not answered any of his letters and he travels up to London to make a terrible discovery. Tom brings Willie back to the village finally and all ends well as he adopts the boy. That is not to gloss over the fact that Willie’s mother (played by Sarah Leech) was psychologically unstable, a religious fanatic and eventually kills herself. Willie had an awful existence before he was evacuated.
It is a nostalgic and heartwarming story which has been twice been adapted as a musical, once as a play and once as a film starring John Thaw as Mr Tom (1998). I believe the theatre was sold out on most nights and certainly on the final Saturday when I attended there wasn’t an empty seat! I was very impressed with the whole performance including the backstage efforts. The scenery and costumes were excellent. I have belonged to an Amateur Dramatics Society in the past and fully appreciate the amount of work that goes into these productions.
The acting was outstanding and I particularly enjoyed the performances of Grant Fulcher, Felix Bennett and Archie Gough (who could be a future star his comedic timing was so good) who had some cracking lines! Well done to the young girl in charge of Sammy the dog too, brilliant job.
Finally congratulations to Eve Earles the Director and everyone at HATS who took part in the production for a great night out; I loved it and I think I can safely say so did the rest of the audience! Looking forward to your next production in September.