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Criterion Theatre
The Railway Children (2019)
E. Nesbit adapted for the stage by Mike Kenny
Sat 12th October to Sat 19th October
Memory

One of the very finest children's stories of the 20th century: it never for a moment runs out of steam. 

Director – Helen Withers
Production Photos
Cast
Mother – Jan Nightingale
Bobbie – Leonie Slater
Phyllis – Charlotte Rawson
Peter – Ted Mcgowan
Father / Doctor – Andrew Sharpe
Perks – Johnny Smythe
Mrs Perks / Cook / Ensemble – Charlie Auld
Mr Szezcpansky / Butler – Lukasz Nowacki
Mrs Viney / Maid / Ensemble – Emma Whewell
Jim / District Superintendent / Ensemble – Luke McDonald
Old Gentleman – Pete Bagley
Perks' Son / Ensemble – Cameron Austin
Crew
Stage Manager – Steve Withers
Set Designer – Mandy Sutton
Lighting Designer – Sarah Basford
Sound Designer – Becky Bartlett
Props i/c – Lesley Rahilly
Wardrobe i/c – Pam Coleman
Prompt – Jonathan Rees
Lighting Operation – Sarah Basford
Lighting Operation – Mikey Riley
Lighting Operation – Fenella Kelly
Assistant to the Director – Pete Bagley
Assistant to the Director – Jean Firth
Stage Manager – Alan Fenn
Artwork Design – David Butler
Props – Frances Dixon
Props – Christine Mavrakis
Wardrobe – Maureen Liggins
Wardrobe – Helen McGowan
Wardrobe – Liz Stevens
Wardrobe – Nancy Sylvester
Wardrobe – Rowena Tye
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – Jenson Jones
Set Build – Nicola Newman
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Painting – Paul Chokran
Set Painting – Judy Talbot
Set Painting – Abigayil Tandy
Sound Operation – Gisa Arumugarasa
Sound Operation – Becky Bartlett
The Play

Mike Kenny's imaginative stage adaptation of E. Nesbit's much-loved children's classic created a huge stir and broke box office records when it was first staged – with real steam trains - at the National Railway Museum in York and then at Waterloo Station in London. 

Famously filmed, this story of a prosperous Edwardian family - a mother and three children - forced into near-penury in the rural north of England captures the anxieties and exhilarations of childhood with great tenderness and insight. 

As Mike Kenny says of his remarkably faithful adaptation, 'You don't need a real train to perform this play… the most powerful prop is the imagination of the audience, the most effective tool the skill of the actors.'

 

Review Quotes

 

'The three lead actors manage to do two very difficult things: be adults playing children and three characters working together as one. When it’s done this well, you never doubt the achievement'

 

'In these dark days, with winter approaching in more senses than one, it is nice to feast on something wholesome, something that helps restore one’s faith in fundamental human goodness.'

  

This amateur production of 'The Railway Children' is presented by arrangement with Nick Hern Books. 

Reviews

Review by Nick Le Mesurier

In these dark days, with winter approaching in more senses than one, it is nice to feast on something wholesome, something that helps restore one’s faith in fundamental human goodness. Cue Edith Nesbit’s perennial story of three middle-class children forced into rural poverty by the unjust imprisonment of their father. ‘The Railway Children’ has delighted audiences young and old since it was first published in 1905, when it then had very current concerns with geo-political issues that are kept firmly in the background of the story but which nevertheless drive the plot.

 

Many people will know it from the 1970 film starring Jenny Agattur and Bernard Cribbins, and recall the famous scene in which Agattur, as Bobbie the eldest daughter, is re-united with her father on the railway station. Few who have seen it will forget her cry of “Daddy! My Daddy!” nor boast that they did not shed a tear at the time.

Let me tell you, this stage production recreates that scene, and that feeling throughout. There were many in the packed and very mixed age audience who had hankies in their hands at the end (me included). And why not? It is story of faith and resilience and kindness; of dignity and fortitude and a belief in justice. These are rare sentiments nowadays, at least on the public stage.

 

The three lead actors manage to do two very difficult things: be adults playing children and three characters working together as one. When it’s done this well you never doubt the achievement. Leonie Slater is simply dazzling as Bobbie, the eldest of the three Waterbury children. She combines a growing sensibility and maturity with a playful innocence. Who could not fall in love with Phyllis (Charlotte Rawson), the youngest child, with her humour and charm? And Peter (Ted McGowan) the boy in the middle, aged ten, not yet a man, squabbling with his sisters yet utterly devoted to them. Keeping the three together as children is the mother figure, played by Jan Nightingale. She knows of the dangers going on offstage, and the reason for their father’s imprisonment, but she fiercely protects her children from the knowledge of it. We might not do that today, but we can feel the strain of her courage and the joy of their ignorance.

 

Then there are the supporting members of the cast, too many to mention by name but all worthy of commendation. Mr Perks (Johnny Smyth) is the friendly station porter whose good heart and pride provide a lynch pin to the story. Andrew Sharpe is both stern and affectionate as the father, and I liked Emma Whewell’s busty portrayal as the maid and Mrs Viney. Lukasz Nowacki as Mr Szezcpansky, the Russian dissident and refugee from the Tsarist prison camps, whom the family take in and accept without question, is becoming an actor to watch. The show deservedly received a rapturous reception from an enthralled audience.

 

The story is full of familiar references to Edwardian England: a period often portrayed as ‘golden’, when in fact it was full of harsh injustices. But here in Three Chimneys, the fictional house in the fictional village of Oakworth, we can believe for a while in the possibility of something better.

 

 

Further reviews available at https://www.elementarywhatson.com/reviews

 

 

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