Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


rail kids

Tom Powell (left) as Peter, Jess Schneider as Bobbie, Sandy Tudor as the mother and Faye Bingham as Phyllis.

Pictures: Colin Hill

The Railway Children

The Nonentities,

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Is it a book, is it a play, is it a train? Edith Nesbit must have been chuffed at the success of her story of The Railway Children, first serialised in The London Magazine back in 1905.

Although this story of Victorian childhood innocence is not without its controversy after significant plot details were deemed to be similar to the book The House by The Railway by Ada Graves, first published in 1896, a fact that might have left both authors steaming.

After several television adaptions over the years and the expansive and popular film in 1970, it has finally arrived at the platform of the Rose theatre.

The story scenically is a wide geographic affair from its start in the family London home to the wilds of the Yorkshire countryside not to mention the central theme of steam trains. All of this presents problems in bringing it to the stage.

There have been a variety of adaptions that have struggled with all of this and in finding a comfortable way to negotiate the story’s timeline. In this, Mike Kenny’s version, it has the children narrating their own experiences to the audience and the transition from drama to the story is sometime overpowered by the added comedy he has given the young heroes.

Faye Bingham was the spirited if not, at times, precocious Phyllis with Peter played confidently by Tom Powell. Jess Schneider was Bobbie and was tasked with the lion’s share of the narration. All three performers were superb and fluent in their portrayals and made it quite believable as they were playing ages slightly less than their years. Stuart Wishart was Mr Perks the station master with Becca Williams as Mrs Perks and both did a fine job in their supporting roles.


Sandy Tudor excels as the mother

Andy Bingham was the desperate Russian writer Mr Schepansky separated from his family although had outgrown his short trousers just a little bit in his second role as Jim. 

The Railways Children calls for a variety of supporting cast characters amongst them there was Bob Grahams as the children’s father, missing for most of the time with his troubles in the city. The Doctor and Butler played by David Wakeman, Lyn Ravenhill and Beth Dalton as the Cook and maid respectively and Stanley Barton, looking fine in his Victorian day suit, as the old Gentleman. A special mention also goes to the Perks children played by little Luca Griffin, Louie Carr and Mae carter adding to this very full cast.

As with all of Amateur productions there often seems to be someone who for whatever reason, a given role allows them to shine. Here it was Sandy Tudor as the mother who brought a genuine sense of compassion to her performance. There was a real focus on her character and she created great empathy for her trials in this mostly narrative rendition of the story. 

Jen Eglington has created a splendid railway setting and the team have spared no detail in the creation of a Railway Bridge and tunnel. With nothing more than a bellow off and sound effects the train atmospheres worked well.

Directed by Richard Taylor this highly visual tale will have you hankering for summer picnics in the bygone age of steam and if you are looking for an entertaining excursion before the Christmas rush knocks you off your tracks, this is just the ticket. To 07-12-19

Jeff Grant


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