Exeter Northcott Theatre’s charming production of E. Nesbit’s much loved classic The Railway Children arrives at the Lowry Theatre this week.
Directed by Paul Jepson, the play brings together a well-adapted screenplay, outstanding acting and technical wizardry to create a highly atmospheric and snappily-paced adaptation of the children’s novel.
The production is mostly true to the original story of a mother and three children forced to abandon their comfortable London home for a small cottage in the country following the wrongful conviction of their father. The twists and turns in the plot are cleverly adapted from the original to suit the stage with Perks (the excellent Stewart Wright) as the omnipotent observer who fills in the gaps of the lengthy novel without ever losing an opportunity to show off his excellent comic timing.
The quality of the directing is clear in the naturalness of the dialogue, particularly between the three children Phyllis (Katherine Carlton), Roberta (an outstanding Millie Turner) and Peter (Vinay Lad). Callum Goulden as young John Perks is an excellent comic foil to his more earnest peers; it was a shame not to see a bit more of a highly amiable Andrea Davy as Mrs. Perks. Joy Brook as Mother gives an emotional performance, and the excellent portrayal of family drama is lightened and enlivened by the visits of an increasingly frayed Andrew Josh as the family doctor.
The stage is often transformed into a sepia-toned 19th century by the beautiful semi-transparent backdrops and there are also very effective video projections which give the big moments a cinematic immediacy. There was some evidence of first-night nerves (a banner went up at the wrong time, and the show started somewhat late) but these could not distract a rapt audience. This excellent production runs until Sunday, July 30th and is not to be missed.
Tickets can be found at http://www.thelowry.com/events/the-railway-children
Reviewed by Deirdre Warr