Skip to main content

Review of The Railway Children at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise that The Railway Children from Looking Glass Theatre was an awfully old fashioned and really rather quaint show. I know that at some point in the dim distant past I saw the original film version (all Jenny Agutter and "Daddy" etc), as I think definitely every one of my age will have seen that. However, the fact that of the audience, staggeringly only three were children suggests a little to me that the audience was either family and friends of the performers, or older people reminiscing over the story they remember from their younger days.

I have to confess that I didn't remember much of the story ahead of seeing it, however, this adaptation from James Smith (who also directs) based on the Edith Nesbit original brings the story and characters to life in a compact seventy-minute version. As has been common from recent years, the cast is formed from recent graduates of University of Northampton BA Actors course, all familiar to me (with one exception of Natalie Částka as Mother). This, of course, means that the whole cast is generally the same age, so challenges them from the outset to portray the multitude of characters age ranges.

As the children, and wonderfully likeable each of them, is Jenny Watson as Bobbie, Penelope May as Phyllis and Connor McAvoy as Peter. Their skills learnt on the course are well used and they create believable younger representatives of themselves. Jenny especially creates the role made famous on screen by Agutter her own and adds a surprising amount of character that at culmination reminds you that the story is quite an emotional one really.

The other end of the scale and tasked with the older roles are Natalie Částka and Hans Oldham. Hans is especially good in his multiple older roles. His Old Gentlemen turn was, in particular, a great little creation, full of the love and tenderness required for such a lovely old chap willing to help all.

Completing the cast and very much in his element of clowning is Lewis Hodson. There is no point in often pretending to be something else as a performer perhaps and Lewis has clearly found his niche, and I can't help but think it will in time take him far. Right from long before the play begins, he is pointlessly doing his station portering job through the church and adding crazy climbing antics into the bargain. Later as the "Russian" he continues to add silliness (coupled with crazy wig) into the piece. Playful, amusing and just plain daft, he is once again great.

The set from Paul Beasley is a typical touring one and more than adequately does the job, even if it at times shows is ricketiness when the cast is moving full sprint. That coupled with some nice music from Ian Riley makes a nicely pleasing, if simplistic play, very well performed. It will be quite fascinating to see if the much bigger budget version heading to Royal & Derngate later this year offers the same amount of charm.


Performance reviewed: Saturday 31st December, 2016 (matinee) at St. Peters Church, Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton.

Details of Looking Glass Theatre can be found on their website at

Popular posts from this blog

Review of The Worst Witch at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch first appeared in print in 1974, bringing its tale of an academy for witches to the first of a few generations. It was a long time before a certain boy wizard made his first appearance in a school of his own, and doesn't Emma Reeves, adaptor for the stage, know it. There are many a jibe at the HP universe in this stage version, that even I, someone who has never read or watched any of them (yes, really), could pick up.

Mildred Hubble arrives by mistake at the wrong university, a "normal" or "pleb" far removed from the rest of the students at Miss Cackle's Academy. Here she meets friends and enemies, and a certain evil twin bent on world domination.

Reeves' adaptation starts off slightly shakily as we are presented with what at first threatens to be a cheap rip-off of the mega stage hit The Play That Goes Wrong as we are introduced to the premise that this is a play put on by the students, complete with copycat stage ma…

Review of The Pillowman at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

The Pillowman sounds such a friendly title, and to be fair, his story is one of the lighter aspects of Martin McDonagh's script. It still involves dead children though, if you want to get a clear vision of how dark this play is.

Set in a police state of the future, Katurian (Toby Pugh) is taken in for the content of his often violent stories and a similarity to a spate of recent child killings. Here in detention cell 13, his police captors, Tupolski (Adrian Wyman) and Ariel (Steve While) play good cop, bad cop while holding over the threat of violence against Katurian's mentally disabled brother Michal (Patrick Morgan), being held in another cell.

The Pillowman is clearly a very warped story, with the blackest of black comedy, and often also very offensive with it's racial stereotyping and disability. In fact, it is no surprise that a couple left in the interval, as I would happily admit that this play is far from everyone. I like a good black comedy though, and lifting an …

Review of Broadway Lights And West End Nights at Northampton College

I have followed the acting course at the University of Northampton for the last five years now, but this Saturday I experienced the Level 3 Musical Theatre group at Northampton College for the first time, as they presented a performance by their first and second-year students. The evidence from this first encounter suggests that there is some very good talent on its way through this course.

The evening presented a nicely varied selection of performances from six shows, Avenue Q, Rent, The Lion King, Cats, Mary Poppins and Sweet Charity, both providing some lovely singing routines and a few of pure dance, allowing the students to show many of their, very obvious, skills.

From the collection of 21 routines presented, there were a few standout moments, the best of which for myself was Mungojerrie & Rumpleteazer performed by Tom Kalek and Lily Cushway. This was a routine of such polish that I would happily have watched on any stage, never mind a student performance. Kaley and Cushway…