Goodnight Mister Tom 12.04.2016

 

mr tom

Goodnight Mister Tom is a play based on the book by Michelle Magorian. It tells the story of William, evacuated to the countryside during the second World War. He is taken in by the grumpy Mr Oakley who forms a bond with the introverted young  boy, and is ultimately his saviour. William learns to adapt to the ways of the countryside, forging friendships and overcoming adversities along the way.

I was a little dubious as to how enjoyable I would find this play (seeing as my interest in history or child related matters are probably on a par with applying for car tax) but I endeavored to remain open minded. The initial moments of the opening scene reminded me of school plays about the war, in which the hits of Vera Lynn have been regurgitated by over zealous drama club pre-teens. I wasn’t overly convinced, but my attention was soon captured by the tentative relationship between Mr Oakley (Troughton) and William (Taylor-McDowall). I found myself drawn in by the gentle unfurling of William’s life back in London, combined with some well timed humour. I am not a huge fan of puppets but I have to commend  Elisa De Grey for the lovable Sammy, who served an integral part throughout. Despite not necessarily always being a main feature in every scene I found my eyes drawn towards the dog, and was amazed by how lifelike and realistic he looked. I noticed he was often used as a focal point during set changes which worked well. There were some other puppets used during the production, and I felt they added a real depth and additional dimension to the scenes.

The turning point in the play for me was the introduction of the bombastic Zach (Loades), whose precocious yet charming nature had me grinning from ear to ear. The scene when they are all gathered around the radio is particularly memorable…as was his taste in knitwear! Some of his lines really did tickle me, and I developed a genuine affection towards his earnest little character. The entire cast worked extremely well together, and there were several set changes that required quite the team effort. The most impressive transition for me was probably the change from sleepy Dorset back to William’s impoverished home in London, where the more shocking scenes were played out. The abuse William endured and his mothers dillusional and irrational behaviour are sensitively handled, giving the audience a heart wrenching insight into his struggles at home. As someone encountering similar situations in my professional life I felt it was an accurate and realistic representation of maltreatment a child may endure.  The play is written in such a way that the audience can become emotionally involved in William’s plight, but then laugh moments later due to the clever one liners and well rounded characters.

I have to give a special mention to the ‘drama teacher’, who made me chuckle with her enthusiastic supervision of William and Zach from the sidelines…reminiscent of many passionate volunteers I have encountered over the years. A smooth, slick production, with just the right amount of laughter (and potentially tears!) suitable for a varied audience. Just a little warning for parents…if your youngsters go to watch Goodnight Mister Tom you may be due a little “birds and the bees” chat!!

Goodnight Mister Tom is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre for the remainder of this week. http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/goodnight-mister-tom/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/ 

With thanks to Lara for setting me up with the opportunity to write some reviews x

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1.4.2016 Die Fledermaus

theatre april

 

Opera…not for everyone. I certainly felt that way as I settled into my seat, acclimatizing to the faint scent of murray mints and farts, and the quiet squeaks of protesting hearing aids. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it was no lie that I was a fair few decades younger than 95% of my fellow theatre goers this evening. It didn’t fill me with confidence, and I anticipated enduring a few hours of incomprehensible dramatics and a few windbags (cast, not my seated neighbours).

There was something quite comforting in the air tonight however, and I felt goosebumps as the orchestra began to play. I was quite pleased with myself for recognising some of the music, and liked the look of the lavish set. I wasn’t familiar with the synopsis of the play (seemingly a theme for me) and had no idea what to expect, although if operatic history is anything to go by I anticipated some kind of love related issue!!

I was initially a little stumped by the thick accent of the chambermaid in the opening scene, but quickly realised there were subtitles handily projected at the top of the stage (I was 3 rows from the front so a little neck craning was required) . Adele was a confident and cheeky lady, serving her master Gabriele and mistress Rosalinde. She raised a few titters within the opening scene, which is always a good sign. In a nut shell, Gabriele is due to go to prison for 8 days and Rosalinde decides to have a little bit of fun while he is gone…but Gabriele also has a similar idea before his incarceration. Adele is a bit of a minx and has her own agenda to fulfil, which causes further chaos and merriment. The plot is timeless (although belief may need to be suspended a little!) and far more compelling than I had thought it would be. I couldn’t choose a particular favourite actor this evening, which is unlike me but I feel shows an equally strong and endearing performance from all involved. What I hadn’t considered was how much fun can be had with opera, and that it isn’t all stuffy middle class rubbish. There was some really fantastic tongue in cheek humour, making reference to modern day which certainly helped draw anyone of less than octogenarian age into the moment.  I was stunned at how quickly the story unfolded and developed, and how entertained I was despite the limited set changes. Having not realised there were three acts (and therefore two intervals) I was a little confused when the lights came up at what seemed a crucial moment…silly me!

The cast were all fantastic, and complimented each other beautifully. I was surprised to see the prince played by a female (I thought gender swapping was reserved more for panto!?) but it worked really well. If I was going to be critical I would note that some of the vocals were a little on the quiet side, and I wondered how other audience members were coping (both from a positioning of seating and a hearing aid aspect!).  The chorus were very good at filling the stage and blending into the background, which is the point of them, but unlike in other recent productions I’ve seen I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by any of them. There was a little bit of dancing but I didn’t feel it matched up to the quality of the acting and vocals. I did also notice that as soon as the curtain came down at the end (the see through one), a chorus member was kicking some of the set out of the way which slightly spoilt all the grace that had gone before.

All in all I laughed far more than I thought I ever would, and didn’t feel like I was watching a production that was sent to test my IQ. I really liked that it had been adjusted for a more modern audience, but also seemed to please the more seasoned theatre goers around me. I would happily take my mum, best mate or my grandma to see this production as I found it so inclusive and accessible.I very much enjoyed the feel that a mature audience brought this evening, but hope that people who would normally avoid opera because it’s “too posh” will give Die Fledermaus a go. I will definitely be more open minded to attending productions of this kind in future after enjoying this one so much.