Local children’s author, Jen Carney, stepped into the breech at the last minute to offer her support to The Marco Players which is staging Goodnight Mister Tom.

After a cast member dropped out through illness, the group found themselves with no one to play one of the key characters and so turned to Jen, who has acted in the area for some years - and she stepped in just before two weeks before opening.

The play is an adaptation of the children’s novel by Michelle Magorian and will be familiar to many from the TV film.

“I was keen to support a local society in need,” says Jen, who published her first book 'The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.' last year, “particularly when the play is an adaptation of a children's book I love and an author I admire”.

Jen now has three titles to her name and has already won an award for them as well as being nominated for several others. She takes on the role of Mrs Fletcher, one of the villagers in the play.

“It’s a lovely story.” says director Peter Haslam, “and we’re delighted to be bringing it to the stage.

"It’s about a wartime evacuee, William Beech, who arrives in a small West Country village away from the bombs of London.”

But also, away from his abusive mother. He is placed with curmudgeonly pensioner Tom Oakley, much to the surprise of the rest of the village.

“He’s got a soft heart though,”says Scott Jones who plays the eponymous Mister Tom,“ and he always reminded me of my dad, so I jumped at the chance to play him.”

The role of William Beech is played by 10 year-old Kent Hayward who has appeared in a number of Marco productions recently.

He said “It’s sad in places and I have to cry on stage - but it has a happy ending as Mister Tom adopts William in the story.”

“That’s probably what appealed to me,” adds Jen. “I wrote my stories so that adopted children could see themselves in positive, uplifting situations – I’ve got three adopted children of my own – and I hoped that children from more traditional family units could see that there are more similarities than differences between families, however they're made up.”

The large cast includes many society regulars as well as some new faces this time, including Jen, but also Thomas Bramall who plays the larger-than-life Zach and Katie Houseman-Smith and Jess Tomlin who play the young twins, Carrie & Ginnie.

‘Goodnight Mister Tom’ runs from until November 26 at Stepping Stones Nursery, Chorley Old Road, Bolton, BL1 6AH. Tickets available from 01204 294401 or 07756 510462 or via www.themarcoplayers.net