Goodnight Mister Tom: Much Hadham Drama Group stages village hall adaptation of award-winning book
A cast of 25 adults and children are entering final rehearsals for a multi-media amateur production of the award-winning play Goodnight Mister Tom.
Much Hadham Drama Group is presenting David Wood's adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s 1981 novel at the village hall for three evening performances and a final-day matinee from Thursday May 12 to Saturday May 14.
Set in August 1939 during the dark and dangerous build-up to the Second World War, it is the story of a sad young London boy who is evacuated to the idyllic Dorset countryside and builds a remarkable and moving friendship with a reclusive widower.
Tom Oakley has cut a curmudgeonly figure in rural Little Weirwold for 40 years since his wife Rachel died after giving birth to their baby son, who is buried with her.
William Beech is an illiterate, bruised and malnourished evacuee from Deptford who is physically and emotionally abused by his mentally ill, militant Christian single mother.
Oakley nourishes Beech, restoring him to health, showing him kindness and care and teaching him to read and write. All seems perfect until William is devastatingly summoned back to London by his mother.
Paul Winspear, in his first leading role in eight years of amateur dramatics, plays Mister Tom while the role of William Beech is shared across the four performances by Noah Crosby and Lucas Gooch, both Year 5 pupils at St Andrew's C of E Primary & Nursery in Much Hadham.
Two of Paul's fellow Bishop's Stortford Water Lane Theatre Company members feature: Lisa Turpcu in dual roles as the abusive Mrs Beech and teacher Annie Hartridge, while Amanda Green takes on four minor parts.
Mister Tom's black and white collie, Sammy, appears as a lifesize puppet worked by Connor Hughes. The same puppet, made by Izzy Lacey, was used in a 2019 production of Goodnight Mister Tom by Harlow Theatre Company.
The supporting cast of adults is completed by Lorna Catt, Neil Clarke, Penny Deans, Mark Edwards, Ollie Robinson and Kathy Walsh.
All but one of the children in the production have been sourced by director Sue Clarke from the after-school drama club she runs at St Andrew’s. They include four children at The Bishop's Stortford High School, Herts and Essex High School and Leventhorpe in Sawbridgeworth.
Magorian and Goodnight Mister Tom won The Guardian Fiction Award 1982 and was a commended runner-up for the 1981 Carnegie Medal from British librarians, recognising the year's best English-language children's book published in the UK.
In 1998 the novel was adapted into a film for ITV starring Inspector Morse's John Thaw as Mister Tom.
Then in 2011 David Wood adapted the book for the stage. It premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre before moving to London, where it ran at the West End Phoenix Theatre for two months until late January 2013, with Oliver Ford Davies as Mister Tom. Subsequently it travelled throughout the UK.
The play won the award for best entertainment at the 2013 Laurence Olivier Awards.
* Goodnight Mister Tom at Much Hadham village hall runs Thu May 12-Sat May 14. Evening performances 7.30pm and Saturday matinee 2pm. Tickets cost £10. Call the box office on 01279 842742, email email@example.com, buy them in person from Londis in Much Hadham High Street or online from www.ticketsource.co.uk/much-hadham-drama-group.