Skip to main content

Review of The Railway Children at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This touring production of the very classic E. Nesbit tale The Railway Children adapted by Dave Simpson and directed by Paul Jepson delivers perhaps everything that someone familiar with the original tale would desire.

Yes, in this modern age we are treated to the more flashy projection images which while a little unexciting at times (and occasionally diluted in clarity by the other stage lights) provide a pleasing background nonetheless.

This production of The Railway Children though is still very much of its time, nothing exciting really happens, other than some petticots being removed infront of a train, that we of course know is going to stop, even if we don't know the story. It's all very safe, and perhaps that is why it appears the modern audience has less interest in it judging by the shockingly small audience on opening night.

However, those not there are missing out on just a really lovely piece of gentle theatre, that while not without its faults, holds the interest of the audience throughout and leaves you just generally really happy, which is a much-needed thing in this day and age.

At its heart, of course, are the Waterbury's, a family down on its luck and with a father mysteriously away from home. Played with excellent spirit by Millie Turner (Roberta), Vinay Lad (Peter) and Katherine Carlton (Phyllis), the three children are as captivating as ever. As is the tradition with The Railway Children on stage, all the actors are of course well beyond the age they are portraying, however often you would never guess so with both youthful appearance and exuberance, the actors become kids again. All are wonderful, ho, ever my favourite of the three had to be Carlton's Phyllis, all sour-faced brilliance and truly exuding the characters grumps at generally the whole world.

Stewart Wright holds the whole piece together in an excellent way as Perks, acting as station guard
and narrator at the same time, and wields a neat way in scene changing by altering the points. As his son John, Callum Goulden is equally as childish as the Waterbury children, devilish in his antics and full of michievious fun.

The set looks lovely and in keeping with the whole atmosphere, however, there was, unfortunately, a really clumsy station platform post which simply refused to stop swinging the entire evening whenever it was visible, and sadly both irritated and distracted me more than I would have liked. Hopefully, that can be fixed promptly.

Some lovely touches of humour are put into the production with the comically tired doctor clearly stressed from making one too many trips to The Three Chimneys, via the constantly occupied sick bed. There is a lovely snippet of comedy from the gift of the pram for Mr. Perks, nicely timed, while the scenes involving both the distant train whizzing by in the background and the carriage with the passengers, including the Old Gentleman are naive in the extreme, but actually quite cute and totally in keeping with the story. Personally, I could have done without the overly dramatic music heralding the classic "Daddy, my daddy" moment, a line that is so iconic, no one wants to have it drowned out by such loud music.

The Railway Children was never going to be groundbreaking theatre, it simply didn't need to be, and while it definitely would have looked much better in the setting of the Royal, this is a classic and engaging tale that has been given a nice revival for a new generation and is unquestionably deserving of a larger audience.

A charming little production that never comes off the rails.
⭐⭐⭐½


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 19th September 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
The Railway Children runs at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 24th September 2017 before continuing its tour.until November.

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/


Photos: Mark Dawson

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Legally Blonde at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

As I settled down in my chair at the Derngate to see this touring production of the musical Legally Blonde, I generally had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Never having seen the film, read little up on the show, as is my want, and sitting in a clearly unbalanced gender demographic, this show was quite clearly not targeted at me.

As the opening number, a catchy, but the incredibly screechy song, Omigod You Guys was performed, I was not, let's say, won over at first. However, it was clear that this just served as an overwhelming and ridiculous setup to the boldness of the show. The second number, Serious was a much better experience and genuinely funny song and throughout the tracks to come, there was much better to come.

Our lead is Elle Woods (a charming, bubbly Lucie Jones), a typical caricatured blonde whose sole aim in life is to get the hand of her love in life Warner Huntingdon III (Liam Doyle). When he breaks up with her in pursuit of someone "serious" t…

Review of Education, Education, Education at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This touring show from The Wardrobe Ensemble arrives at Northampton (a co-production location) with a substantial amount of success, proudly displaying on the programmes back cover ten review ratings featuring 43 stars from a possible 50. However not wishing to be swayed by such incredible past form, I settled in the Royal to attempt to form my own opinion of the situation blinkered as much as possible from the stars shining bright.

Education, Education, Education (henceforth known as Education. Phew!) is set on the day after the day before of Tony Blair and his New Labour sweeping to power in May 1997. We are in a "normal" comprehensive school as a new day, and a new hope dawns for the teachers and pupils alike. Flushed with this hope and a Eurovision win, things clearly will only get better. Or will they?

Education ticks a number of theatres loves for me early on, with superb use of music, sharp scene changes and best of all a quite brilliant series of movement pieces thro…

Review of West Side Story at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

Following an interesting journey, myself, Keith, Karl, Tarquin and three ladies (it was clearly a big car) arrived at Kettering to see the Theats production of the classic musical West Side Story. This was a number of firsts for me, with my first visit to The Lighthouse Theatre, the first time I had seen theatre group Theats and my first viewing of West Side Story.

Despite never having seen the classic musical before, I was overwhelmingly familiar with it through both the exceptional songs that come from it and the original Bard source. It is an extremely challenging show to stage I imagine with both the tasking songs and the famous dance routines that have cast its place in history.

For the most part, the amateur group Theats takes this challenge and wins, primarily with its casting of the two iconic leads Maria and Tony, in these roles Lauren Jones and Daniel Fortune form an exceptional partnership on stage and performing both their solos and duets with a confident ease. Lauren par…