Youngsters shine in next club production

Olivia Waller (Centre - Mrs Hartridge the teacher) with her pupils clockwise from left Cameron Cullen (William), Aidan Stewart (Billie), Sophia Murray (Carrie), Archie Braid (Zach) and Niamh Cullen. Rehearsing for Goodnight Mister Tom.
Olivia Waller (Centre - Mrs Hartridge the teacher) with her pupils clockwise from left Cameron Cullen (William), Aidan Stewart (Billie), Sophia Murray (Carrie), Archie Braid (Zach) and Niamh Cullen. Rehearsing for Goodnight Mister Tom.

There is a saying in theatrical circles that you should never work with children or animals – but that is exactly what Peter Biggers and Glenda Fricke, who are co-directing Alnwick Theatre Club’s summer play, propose to do.

And for the first time they will also have a four-legged friend on stage – Lenny the Labrador.

Birdsong at Alnwick Playhouse

Birdsong at Alnwick Playhouse

The club is presenting Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, which is one of the most uplifting stories written, captivating millions. It has been brought gloriously to light by David Wood in a stage adaptation.

Set during the dark and dangerous days in the build-up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mr Tom follows young William Beech who is evacuated from inner London, from a life of squalor and abuse, to the idyllic English countryside, where he builds a remarkable and moving friendship with the widower recluse Tom Oakley.

All seems perfect until William is summoned by his mother back to London with devastating consequences.

Goodnight Mr Tom is a tale of two broken souls at different ends of life that celebrates the power of love and proves that friendship knows no barriers.

Cameron Cullen, a pupil at the Dukes School, plays William. Cameron has played with the Theatre Club before in pantomime.

Glenda said: “This part demands huge emotive commitment from Cameron as he grows in front of our eyes from a nervous, abused London boy at the start of the play to a confident, mature youngster by the end.”

Helping him make this transition is Mr Tom, played by Gary Brown, also returning to the club after a break of a few years.

Peter said: “It has been really great seeing these two develop their relationship through the rehearsals.

“Gary is a natural teacher and is great with Cameron who, for his part, is a brilliant listener, taking everything on board.”

In the play William strikes up a deep friendship with Zach, played by Archie Braid, a Hipsburn Primary School pupil.

Archie wowed the audience when he played Prince Charming in the Youth Theatre production of Cinderella last year.

“Despite his tender years Archie catches the exuberance of Zach perfectly,” said Glenda.

Other youngsters in the play are Duchess School pupils Harry Clark Thompson playing George, initially the village bully, but who becomes friends with William, and Sophia Murray as Carrie. Also starring is Aidan Stuart, who played Oliver in Alnwick Stage Musical Society’s production three years ago.

“Glenda and I were just blown away at the auditions with the abilities all the youngsters demonstrated,” Peter said. “We desperately wanted to use Aidan so we have slightly tweaked the storyline so that, rather than having a twin sister, Carrie has a brother, Billy.

“I can’t wait to bring the play to the Playhouse stage later this month. It will be a must-see show this summer for all the family and we are hoping for full houses to give these kids, and of course all the cast, the recognition they deserve.”

The play is at Alnwick Playhouse from Wednesday, August 23 to Saturday, August 26. Tickets are from the box office on 01665 510785, or online at www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk

They cost £11 premier, £10 standard, £9 concs, £6 children/students.