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Next stop, Kings Cross Theatre! The stage adaptation of the classic novel The Railway Children pulls into Kings Cross after a successful journey from Waterloo Station. Featuring an incredible cast, innovative staging, and a real live steam train (which gains one of the largest rounds of applause all night!), this show is not to be missed.
The show is staged in a specially built theatre space at the back of Kings Cross station, which at times can be a little distracting if the cold seasonal weather decides to rattle the roof. However, the strong cast don’t have to fight hard to gain your attention. As you enter the building, you enter the foyer, styled into an old English platform area, and then asked to take a seat along either platform one or two. The stage is split over one run of railway tracks on which the set is wheeled in as you move seamlessly from scene to scene. At first, I did worry that this notion may become predictable and limited, but in fact it left you wondering what the director would do next.
The leads are nothing short of captivating. The children are played brilliantly. In particular, Bobbie, played by actress Serena Manteghi, was flawless. Her unfathomable energy and commitment to her portrayal of the adventurous juvenile was matched scene for scene by her co-stars Jack Hardwick (Peter) and Louise Calf (Phyllis). Calf’s ability to keep the audience giggling was undeniably great and all three in unison made the suspension of disbelief that these three children were in fact adults, incredibly easy as an audience member. This dedication to their roles and ability to play themselves as at least a decade younger than their actual age is credit to their Director, Damian Cruden, and their ability as actors and also made the transition in the final scene, where they handed over to their younger selves to live the legend of the Railway Children incredibly sentimental and truthful.
The one moment that this play is becoming renowned for is the unveiling of the real-life steam train. In its first appearance, the iconic moment where the three railway children try to avoid a disaster by trying to stop the racing steam train waving their red petticoats, the train crashes down the track and into centre stage and – in this case – receives a bout of applause. Although somewhat predictable that this would end act one, I dare say it will become a moment that none of the audience will forget.
There are some great moments of staging ingenuity from director Damian Cruden, such as the gripping section where Bobbie becomes trapped in the tunnel when a racing steam train passes, or the daily passing of the 9.15 train featuring the kind old gentleman, or even the reenactment of the heart clenching ‘awww’ moment when Bobbie runs down the platform and leaps into the arms of her returning father. Simply put, this is a great piece of theatre.
If you’re looking for the West End sensation at the moment, and aren’t wanting every other line to be sang, then head down to Kings Cross station for a full ‘breaks-off’ night of theatre magic. All aboard!