The Railway Children is a classic tale that many generations of children have enjoyed since its release in 1906. E.Nesbit’s classic has been adapted on numerous occasions for television with the very first one being in 1951. Obviously, there have also been stage adaptations including a musical and an Olivier Award winning performance at the disused Waterloo International railway station. Exeter Northcott Theatre are producing this tour of The Railway Children to showcase E.Nesbit’s work to a new generation. Directed by Paul Jepson.
The story follows three children called Phyliis (Katherine Carlton), Peter (Vinay Lad) and Roberta (Millie Turner) who move to the Three Chimneys cottage with their Mother (Joy Brook). They await the return of their father (Andrew Joshi) who, not known by the children, has been imprisoned. They make friends with the railway station manager Perks (Stewart Wright) and his mischievous son John (Callum Goulden) as they wait and wave to trains everyday to await their father’s return. They encounter different people and scenarios, with the heroic Old Gentleman (Neil Savage) to Szcepansky (Will Richards) to help and inspire them through these tough times.
The play was off to a late start due to some technical difficulties, but it nicely picked up the stride. The train station instructor narrates the play throughout the entire duration – introducing key parts. It wasn’t needed, but it added some charm to a serious story. The acting was a highlight from the entire cast and made this a heartwarming experience. Goulden and Wright start to grow on you with their charm, and Brook plays her role superbly, putting in a solid performance. The children were remarkable with their strong bond, evident throughout the play.
The props give off that childish doll house vibe which was really fitting to a play aimed at children. The use of the television screen was also a superb asset to the play, especially when the train is halted by the children before a potential crash into a tree. The train levers to introduce different sets is a quirky touch to the performance too. Despite such a pretty set the performance wasn’t as smooth as I hoped. There were daft mistakes from the wrong sign being held up to a train to the curtain getting stuck at the end.
The Railway Children certainly does have potential to become an unforgettable experience when it comes to a family outing. The acting is incredibly engrossing, but due to a night of what I presume are production issues late timing with the lighting it lets down what is happening on the stage. I know this play would of gotten a better score if it was all a smooth performance, but these mistakes were too noticeable to ignore.
The Railway Children offers a heartwarming experience that families will definitely enjoy. Despite the issues tonight if this was on any other night this would have been a solid production.
The Railway Children continues its run at The Lowry until the 30th July. You can grab your tickets here.