The Railway Children, film review: ‘Stilted film version of hit stage play’

Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey and Rob Angell star in The Railway Children. Picture: Anthony Robling

Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey and Rob Angell star in The Railway Children. Picture: Anthony Robling - Credit: Archant

Don’t worry: it is not a remake, your treasured memories of Jenny Agutter waving her red knickers are not about to be denigrated and despoiled.

Beth Lilly, Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey and Izaak Cainer star in The Railway Children. Picture: Anthony R

Beth Lilly, Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey and Izaak Cainer star in The Railway Children. Picture: Anthony Robling - Credit: Archant

Instead this is a rather stilted film version of the rather good stage production of the much-loved book.

For about a decade, the York Theatre Royal production has been packing out railway specific locations (in London it was originally at Waterloo but is now relocated to King’s Cross.)

The play was first staged at The National Railway Museum in York and that is where this was filmed.

E. Nesbit’s 1906 book is certainly an odd creation, a children’s story about a family trying to adapt to life in their new Yorkshire home after their father is falsely accused of spying.


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Everybody is nice and very little happens, it’s amazing it’s lasted over a century.

Mike Kenny’s stage adaptation is done with imagination and strikes a nice balance between jokey self-reference and old fashioned earnestness. The production is not so much in the round as beside the tracks, performed along two platforms with mobile bits of stage moving along the railway tracks that run down the middle and at a couple of points, an actual steam train.

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You can see why it has been a hit on stage but it is all a bit much on the screen, lots of adult actors pretending to be posh kids bellowing at each other across short distances, being plucky in the face of adversity.

The production means you can see the front rows of the audience and it is noticeable that the grown-ups seem much more enthused than the kids.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

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