THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
by E Nesbit adapted by Mike Kenny.
Signal Box Theatre @ National Railway Museum Leeman Road YO26 4XJ To 5 September 2015.
Tue-Sat 2pm & 7pm.
Audio-described 29 Aug 2pm & 7pm.
BSL Signed 27 Aug 7pm.
Captioned 29 Aug 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 August.
First-class Yorkshire theatre.
This show has become so popular since being staged at the National Railway Museum by York Theatre Royal in 2008 that extra services have been laid-on, with London performances at King’s Cross alongside the 1,000-seater York Signal Box shows – and that’s an auditorium twice the size of seven years ago.
This year there’s a coup for York, and a loss. Berwick Kaler (“Who? You ask; you’ve clearly never been within 50 miles of York at panto time) had to withdraw from performances owing to an injury. But the engine that steams on the railway track between the two lengths of platform where the action takes place, behind which the audience sits, is GWR Panther Tank 5775 – used in Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film.
Damien Cruden’s staging remains a triumph, acted with commiktment and enthusiasm across the huge space while the Railway Museum adds its own atmosphere as audience members walk past old locos and carriages to the Signal Box.
Edith Nesbit’s story, from the mid-Edwardian era, has a surface of period charm, but among the middle-class resilience and decency sit tougher elements. Nesbit had a conventional mind in an unconventional lifestyle, her writing was as much necessity as with the children’s mother in the story, while Philip Meeks’ Edith in the Dark, first seen in Harrogate, shows her lonely bleakness.
Poverty, wrongful imprisonment, spy intrigue and domestic malice among the servants are all present as disturbing factors, and while the novel’s hardly a bodice-ripper, an important moment relies on the tearing away of two girls’ red underwear (red underwear?).
But there’s another vital voice here. Adapter Mike Kenny is probably making a lot of money from this work. He deserves to, after many years writing for young people with variety and stylistic flexibility. If recognition has started to come his way, it is long overdue.
Kenny writes with integrity, recognising and resonating with young people’s thoughts and feelings. His triumph here builds on the retrospective approach, as the action shows the summer two sisters and a brother gained a new freedom by combining energy and ingenuity to become The Railway Children.
Father/Doctor/Railwayman: Robert Angell.
Mr Perks: Martin Barrass.
Mrs Perks/Between Maid: Elianne Byrne.
Peter: Izaak Cainer.
Mother: Andrina Carroll.
Old Gentleman: Michael Lambourne.
Phyllis: Beth Lilly.
Mrs Viney/Cook: Jacqueline Naylor.
Roberta: Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey.
Butler/Schepansky/District Superintendent/Jim: James Weaver.
Danny/Daniele: Naomi Holliday/Charlotte Wood/Jack Fry.
Sammy/Samuel: Celia Roberts/Stab Gaskell/Felix Fraser/Krauss.
Thomas: Harrison Grration/Eric Rogers/Isaac Burland/Ben Cockerill.
Ruby: Victoria Herrington/Eleanor Thornton/Eleanor Dunkerley/Isabel Thornton.
Edwina: Hannah Brown, Fiona Popplewell/Rebekah Burland/Esther Nixon.
Martha: Mathilde Barker/Helena Gillett/Annie Donaghy/Katie Clark.
Henry: George Horberry/Oscar Langford/Joshua Burland/ Montgomery Grenyer.
Fred: Silas Maughan/Harry Shooter/Billy Ainsworth/Hux Clark.
Frances: Margaux Barker/Molly Bradley/Millie Rafferty/Kayleigh Garnham.
Elise: Madeleine Hicks/Imogen Eyre/Evie Jeffery/Rowan Taylor.
Mabel: Imogen Drury/Freya Popplewell/Maddy Wood/Amber Taylor.
Director: Damian Cruden.
Designer: Joanna Scotcher.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Sound: Craig Vear.
Composer/Musical Director: Christopher Madin.
Young People’s Director: Nicolette Hobson.