Tom Browns Schooldays Union Theatre

‘Playful & intermittently powerful’: TOM BROWN’S SCHOOL DAYS – Union Theatre

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Union Theatre – until 2 February 2020

It is now the fifth year that the Phil Willmott Company’s themed series of Essential Classics has taken over the Union Theatre and this year’s season takes on the mantle of V.E. Day, 75 Years On, looking at Britain and WWII through the lens of Noël Coward, musical theatre and this opening production of Tom Brown’s School Days.

Full disclosure, I have to admit to knowing basically nothing about Tom Brown…, Thomas Hughes’ novels and its subsequent adaptations never having figured in my childhood. So the fact that Willmott’s new version moves the action from the 1830s to the 1940s has no impact on my expectations, though it has raised an eyebrow or three from those to whom I’ve mentioned it.

Willmott’s justification lies in wanting to examine the role of public schools in forming the officer classes, and how such institutions might have coped when depleted by so many of their men serving. But I’m not 100% sure that it is a hugely revelatory approach in that respect – the case of undiagnosed PTSD is particularly fudged – at its heart this is (and remains) a tale of upper class schoolboy japes.

And interspersed with some beautiful arrangements of a wide variety of songs (effective musical direction from Ralph Warman), it is playful and intermittently powerful, as it looks at cultures of omertà and bullying alongside snaffling roast potatoes and cake. Hudson Brown and Sam James Page impress as Tom and his sometime pal East, while Mikko Juan and Jacob Seelochan stand out among their classmates. Of the adults, Ursula Mohan delivers a comic masterclass as kindly cook Sally.

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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