Bar a train, play not in vain

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The Railway Children - SDC Youth Theatre - Southport Little Theatre

Everybody knows ‘The Railway Children’ from the classic 1970 film – but unfortunately, it doesn’t travel well to the stage.

The very things that made it exciting and interesting to watch on screen, steam trains puffing through the valley, the landslide, the picturesque Yorkshire countryside, were obviously missing. Without the dramatic action, the 
dialogue came across as 
rather twee and old-fashioned. The impression was end of term school play, which begs the question: why didn’t they include a weekend matinee as children would have loved it?

Despite a charming set of the village station, railway tunnel prominent in the background, all felt static.

The train was absent, its arrival signalled by chugging sound effects and eye-watering smoke belched into the audience!

Here were assembled the three children, lifted from London luxury to the remote Dales, along with their distressed mother, after their father was imprisoned, after allegedly spying for Russia.

Rebecca Molineux played Mother with suitable pathos. John Bloom portrayed her infuriating little son to perfection and Eleanor Gillow and Martha Jenkinson took the Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett roles as his sisters, whose ‘posh’ public school 
accents were mocked by the local Yorkshire lassies.

Robbie Fletcher-Hill doubled as The Hound and The Mysterious Russian, while Jamie Lonsdale was The Old Gentleman who saved the day and, later, Father’s release in time for a happy ending.

Nick Fisher was the family doctor and Zack Johnson brought the whole together by narrating the story as The Jovial Stationmaster.

All the children performed well under the direction of Marilyn Fletcher-Hill but, compared to the film, the play lacked pace and drama.