The Railway Children
If this heartfelt and moving adaptation of Edith Nesbit's classic children's story doesn't have you weeping into hanky by the end I don't know what will.
Anyone who’s seen the film version of The Railway Children will remember well the iconic scene towards the end – the one on the platform of a railway station in Edwardian Yorkshire where the steam from the train parts and young Bobby sees her father return. “Daddy! It’s my daddy!” she calls out.
It’s a tough act to follow – even if the film is more than 40 years old – but on stage today (Tues 13 Nov) at Leatherhead Theatre that very same scene packed no less emotional punch. My eyes were welling with tears. I’m sure I even heard some muffled sniffles among the school children who were also there watching the show.
We were, of course, watching The Railway Children, a musical adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s classic children’s novel, and the second production in the Leatherhead Autumn Rep Season. And like every other production I’ve seen by this company, it’s superbly done.
Heartfelt and moving, it paints a vivid picture of Nesbit’s Edwardian England – following the adventures of the three Waterbury children who with their Mother are forced to move from their posh London house to a cottage in Yorkshire after their father goes missing.
Adapted by Dave Simpson, the man behind Leatherhead Rep’s The Secret Garden earlier this year, this show is delivered with real feeling by the whole cast – although there are definite standout performances.
It’s narrated by Mr Perks (the wonderful William Hazel) and his wife, Mrs Perks (Clare Samuels), and the pair have fun with it, poking good-humoured fun at each other – and even involving the audience at one point.
Katherine Mount – the show’s composer and producer (alongside Teresa Barlow who’s also the musical director) – is wonderful as the Mother, conveying both her sadness and strength with sincerity. And sing! Boy can this lady sing.
The children – Emma Mulkern as Roberta (Bobby), Vinnie Monachello as Peter and Romy Clarkson, a student at Rosebery School in Epsom – have a great rapport and play their parts with aplomb. Young Romy is particularly impressive proving herself more than capable – at only 14 years of age – alongside the company of professional actors. Another local student, Ben Banyard, also gives a great performance.
The story moves along a steady pace, packing in plenty of the action and adventure from the book, including the one when the famous red petticoat comes out to save the day and prevent a train crash. And speaking of trains, Augusta, a miniature steam train from the Surrey Society of Model Engineers, makes an delightful appearance.
This is a great family show and one that kids in particular will love. The school children at today’s performance clearly enjoyed the show. It’s clear The Railway Children is a show that just never runs out of steam.
‘The Railway Children’ is be on from until Sat 17 Nov, and ‘Seasons Greetings’ is on from Tues 20 – Sat 24 Nov.
The Leatherhead Theatre, 7 Church Street, Leatherhead, KT22 8DN. Tel: 01372 365141. leatherheadrep.com