The Railway Children

Malvern Theatres


The Railway Children takes us back to a world of relative innocence, simplicity and charm that has long disappeared from these shores,  despite the underlying sinister elements in the story of wrongful imprisonment, material hardship and foreign tensions.

Roberta, Peter and Phyllis experience the long-mysterious absence of their father but are considerably cushioned from the reality by their mother’s selfless courage and protective positivity. The story of their relationships and adventures in a remote Yorkshire village, after being uprooted from their middle class comfort in London, is the heart of this story.

There is a considerable challenge in adapting this kind of novel for the stage, and the result is a considerable reliance on narration, especially in the first half. This narration relies largely on the affable Perks, the Stationmaster. However the drama has moments of pathos and humour that enliven entertainment.

Short scenes can result in a lack of depth in exploring character and themes but the production maintains good pace and it is helped by the elaborate and visually stimulating design of the show.

The use of screens, projections, period props and evocative sounds all contribute to a very effective and absorbing sense of being transported into the world of the novel.

This is a delightful family story and the children are crucial to the success of this production. Millie Turner (Roberta), Vinay Lad (Peter) and Katherine Carlton (Phyllis) are sharply differentiated characters at the centre of this story. Their petty bickering, moments of banter and response to circumstances are delivered energetically and well; their words are delivered very clearly if quite quickly!

Callum Goulden (John), the son of the stationmaster Perks,  is a Billy Bunter character who brings particular humour and energy to the show with his practical jokes and teasing about accent and class. He is excellent value.

Neil Savage (The Old Gentleman) provides a very warm and comforting presence with his almost-divine ability to solve the family’s significant problems. Likewise Joy Brook (Mother) provides the most interesting, deep and varied character study and is the glue that holds the family together in times of pressure. Some of the most poignant scenes were when Mother and Roberta are playing opposite each other.

The ever-present and benevolent Perks was played on this occasion by Mark Starr; he becomes particularly alive when struggling to accept presents on his birthday in case it might appear to be charity.

The style of this production seems to change somewhat as we move through the second Act. The humour borders on farce at one or two moments and the doubling of parts may contribute to that, particularly of the Russian Szczepansky/Grandson. However this does not detract from the fact that this production provides delightful family entertainment.  It is nostalgic and will charm audiences around the country. To 27-08-17

Tim Crow


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