Thursday, 7 January 2016

Review: The Railway Children - King’s Cross Theatre

Last week, once all the Christmas excitement had come to an end, I went to King’s Cross Theatre to see The Railway Children for my little brother’s birthday.

The Railway Children is a story which I somehow missed growing up, and is one of those classics that I’ve never seen or read. But classics get their status for a reason, so I was excited nonetheless to experience an iconic tale come to life, particularly given the unusual set-up of this theatre.

I knew this wasn’t going to be a conventional theatrical space, given that one of the show’s selling points is the 60 tonne steam train that arrives into the space, but beyond this I had no concept of how the performance would be played out.

The magic of this production begins when you enter the gates at the entrance of the site; after making your way down a winding corridor, you emerge into an old-fashioned train station waiting room of sorts, complete with a bar.

Once the ‘train is ready to board’ you find the correct queue for your platform and find your places on the tiered seating which runs down either side of the space. In the middle lies a track sandwiched between two platforms, with various locomotive-themed props such a bridges and signals at either end. 

The space is used magnificently throughout the performance with small blocks being wheeled up along the tracks to represent different locational spaces and continually propel the action forwards. And despite the fact that you don’t always have the best or a direct view of what was happening, there is never a moment when you feel as though you are missing out, thanks to the innovative use of the space and the admirable effort of the performers.

Although I knew nothing of the characters beforehand, I immediately fell in love with the three protagonists, their distinct personalities and how they fit together as a three. In fact, one of my favourite things about this production is the way that the three adults play a dual role throughout, narrating the story as their older selves as well as leaking seamlessly into their scenes as children.

The script is beautifully written in intertwining these two levels of narrative, with the three protagonists constantly finishing each other’s sentences and setting up sentences for new characters to complete upon entering the stage.

Of course, you can’t review this production without mentioning the train, and even though everyone was heavily anticipating its arrival, it was still a breath-taking moment when it finally burst into the space for the first time.

The Railway Children is a fast flowing, beautifully written and delicately executed piece of theatre, perfect for a family outing or for those who can look upon the narrative with a youthful nostalgia.

Have you seen or read The Railway Children? What’s the best thing you’ve seen at the theatre recently?


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