Theatre review: The Railway Children at King’s Cross
- Credit: Archant
It might be one for the kids, but there’s no doubting the main spectacle of this show, says Andrew Geehan.
The Railway Children holds a nostalgic place in British hearts ever since E.Nesbit’s Edwardian children’s novel was turned into a 1970 movie.
The moment when Jenny Agutter’s Bobby waves her red petticoat to halt a train – or greets a steam-shrouded figure on a platform with the cry “my daddy” – has passed into film iconography. Following successful runs in York and at Waterloo’s empty Eurostar terminal, Mike Kenny’s faithful adaptation transfers to a purpose-built venue on a disused track at King’s Cross.
In Damien Cruden’s slick production, the audience sit on platforms either side of the track to see a showstopping 140-year-old steam engine roar into view.
Other action takes place on movable platforms along the track, as a framing device - disconcerting and not wholly convincing - allows adult actors to look back on their younger selves.
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There the children befriend Jeremy Swift’s dryly humorous, bluff stationmaster Perks, and enlist the help of the ‘Old Gentleman” on the London express to help a political refugee from Tsarist Russia.
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Cruden moves briskly and professionally through their episodic adventures: rescuing an injured boy and averting the disaster of a landslide on the track - before the disappointingly underwhelming resolution of daddy’s return.
Caroline Harker does good work as the long-suffering single mother struggling to protect her children from their father’s disappearance, and Serena Manteghi is bright, confident and a tad lacking in innocence as feminist prototype Bobby. Adults hoping for deeper subtext will be disappointed, but my six-year-old was held wrapt throughout and there’s no doubting the spectacle of a real steam train is the highlight.
Rating: 4/5 stars