THE Bradfordians have returned to their regular summer residency at the Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon this week to bring audiences a modern classic, Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting wartime tale, Goodnight Mister Tom.

The ever-popular novel, first published in 1981, is brought gloriously to life by director Cally Smart and musical director Dora Bishop in this magical stage adaptation by David Wood.

Set during the build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech (Douglas Bessant), who is evacuated from London to the idyllic English countryside.

Tom Oakley is selected to take in the eight-year-old in accordance with the specific instructions of William’s mother simply because he lives next to the local church.

William recovers from the trauma of child abuse to forge a remarkable and heart-warming friendship in Little Weirwold with the elderly village recluse, Tom Oakley, played by Allan Schonfeld.

All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother (Rachael Courage) back to London and finds she has given birth to an unnamed daughter for whom she is too mentally ill to look after.

Since its publication, Goodnight Mister Tom has been translated into 11 languages and won awards all over the world.

The stage adaptation, complete with original music, composed exclusively for this production by Tom Schonfeld, fits the vibrant Bradfordians perfectly.

It allows the large cast of all ages to showcase their acting, singing and puppeteering skills (Astrid Bishop with Sammy the dog) as well as to recreate a slice of wartime Britain in the heart of Bradford on Avon.

Often, it’s unfair to single out specific cast members in amateur productions, which rely mainly on their enthusiasm and love of drama and the theatre.

But one has to praise the two excellent performances by Allan Schonfield as Mr Tom Oakley and Douglas Bessant as William Beech.

The relationship and bond between the old man and the young boy are central to the plot and both actors played their roles very believably and with great sensitivity.

The directors’ delicate treatment of the themes of loss, bereavement, death, life, love, relationships and child abuse, was also a delight to watch.

The cast should be very proud that they managed to pull off this engaging tale of war-time suffering in such a thoroughly enjoyable and splendid fashion. I’d give them top marks for both effort and achievement.

The show runs to Saturday, July 7 and, like most productions by The Bradfordians, is already sold out. Curtain up is at 7.30pm.

Audience members can picnic beforehand or enjoy a slice of cake and a glass of wine whilst being entertained with live 40s-style music. They are invited to get into the wartime spirit by dressing up in costume if they wish.