29-31 March 2016
Reviewed by Catherine Brown
Children’s classic ‘The Railway Children’ is being performed by the Talking Scarlet theatre company at venues across England and Northern Ireland. I went to see it with my youngest son last night at Buxton Opera House in Derbyshire and would highly recommend it to families of all ages. The original book was written by Edith Nesbitt although many will be more familiar with the 1970 film.
This stage adaptation successfully takes the audience back to 1905 where a family become separated from comfortable London home with their father when he is wrongly accused of being a spy. The three children Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, along with their mother, move to the Yorkshire countryside and learn to adapt to life with less money. Much of the story revolves around the nearby railway station and the station manager Perks, played by Ben Sleep, whose humour and wise words make the children’s new standard of life more bearable.
The siblings are typical of many brother and sisters – they argue and bicker but always look out for each other and their Mum. This play involves plenty of songs, my favourite included the lines ‘miracle of steam’ which gave an excellent summary of the impact of steam trains on the countryside. While some of the style of language was tricky to understand by my 5 year old, he was still mesmerised throughout and declared afterwards that he would like a train like Peter’s. The adaptation would be perfect for young children wanting to learn more about life during the steam age.
During the interval we were able to purchase drinks and ice cream at a very reasonable price. The volunteer staff are always warm and friendly at this theatre and had helped us earlier with the provision of a booster seat. My son enjoyed the opportunity to look round at the grandness of the architecture. He did comment on the flush chain toilets and I had to explain that they weren’t old just because of the show!
Throughout ‘The Railway Children’ Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis demonstrate the importance of caring and being cared for. They are helped on their journey by an old gentleman whom they regularly wave to on the train, played by Mark Hutchinson. James Campbell has the challenge of playing four roles including that of Dr Forrest and Jim, a young boy who falls on the track and turns out to be the old gentleman’s grandson. My favourite character was Bobbie, played by Sophie Holt. She did an excellent job demonstrating the vulnerability and pressure of responsibility which comes with being the eldest sibling. Her interactions with her mother, played by Joanne Entwisle, felt very heart-moving and genuine.
By the end of the show I was keen to revisit more of E. Nesbit’s stories with my children and will also keep a keen eye out for when the Talking Scarlett company return to the area. Definitely 5 out of 5 for both entertainment and education.
Tickets cost from £14 to £16 (booking fees may apply).
The Railway Children is at Buxton Opera House until 31 March 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0845 127 2190.
Buxton Opera House, Water Street, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6XN | 0845 127 2190