Theatre Review: The Railway Children - King's Cross Theatre, London ✭✭✭✭

The Railway Children
King's Cross Theatre
Review by Emma Curry

Thursday 15th January 2015: From the moment you step into the King’s Cross Theatre for this play, you are fully immersed in the world of the railways. The lobby is decorated with the authentic features of an Edwardian waiting room, from the signage to the old-fashioned till registers to the ushers’ uniforms, and even the directions to the seats are labelled as ‘platforms’. And once inside the theatre space, the immersion continues: the seats are arranged along the edge of a railway line, and the performers and props roll in and out of scene on rostrums that move along the tracks. There’s even a climactic and thrilling moment when a real steam train rolls into view.

It’s a brilliant method of staging that helps to ensure we are thoroughly engaged with the world of the play. Of course, the story is very familiar to many, either from Edith Nesbit’s original book or from the famous film adaptation starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins. The play chooses to have the three ‘railway children’ of the title narrate the tale as adults, leading to several amusing moments when they disagree on the order in which it took place. This set-up means we can move deftly through the main events of the story, from the family’s initial move to Yorkshire following their father’s imprisonment; through the children’s friendship with kindly station master Perks, to that final, memorable reunion scene on the smoke-filled platform.

There are some excellent performances along the way from Jeremy Swift (last seen in Downton Abbey) as the gruff Mr Perks, Caroline Harker as the quietly resilient Mother, and Andrew Loudon as both the children’s father and the kindly Scottish doctor who assists the children when their mother is ill. The children themselves are also brilliantly exuberant: particularly Louise Calf as a slightly scatty Phyllis, and Serena Manteghi as the more measured Bobbie.

There’s plenty to keep younger children entertained in this production, with lots of engagement from the performers and several moments of audience participation. The moment when the train itself features is also thrillingly impressive: the sheer size of the engine involved, even within the fairly large auditorium, is breath-taking. At times I wondered whether the scale of the spectacle might slightly detract from the emotional weight of the events of the story: whilst it adds to the tense, thrilling nature of the scene in its first appearance, in the final, emotionally-charged moment between Bobbie and her father it becomes slightly distracting. Nevertheless, for the energy and amiability of the performers, and the truly fantastic stage design, this is a production that’s most definitely worth experiencing. Next departure: tonight at 7:30pm. All aboard!

Four stars ✭✭✭✭


King’s Cross Theatre
Goods Way
King’s Cross
London N1C 4UR

Currently booking until                 1 March 2015 (New Booking Period until 6 September 2015 opens 19 December                                                          2014)
Running Time                             2 hours 10 minutes (including an interval)
Box Office                                  0844 871 7604
Performances                             Tuesday – Friday 7.30pm
                                                Thursday & Sunday matinees at 2.30pm
                                                Saturdays at 2pm & 5.30pm
                                                See website for Christmas and school holiday performance schedules
Tickets                                      £25.00-£49.50, with 25% off for Under 16s (Premium Seats available at £69.50 +
                                                free programme)

Twitter                                      @TRCKingsCross